Hundreds of beds, dressers, tables, lamps and other furnishings are being pulled out of a defunct hotel on Eau Claire’s southwest side to help area charities.
Eau Claire-based developer Larson Companies invited Western Dairyland Economic Opportunity Council to take furniture from guest rooms in the former Clarion, 2703 Craig Road, so several charitable organizations can reuse those items.
“It’s not about one program. It’s about how can we help this community with its housing needs,” said Jeanne Semb, Western Dairyland’s housing services coordinator.
While Western Dairyland will use some of the furnishings for the housing it has for homeless families and individuals, much of the donated goods will go to Beacon House, Lutheran Social Services, Catholic Charities and other local groups.
Volunteers began hauling mattresses and box springs out of the guest rooms, down the hallways and out through the lobby at noon Monday, starting an afternoon’s worth of work to clear out the hotel.
The move-out is slated to resume today from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and then any additional shifts needed to remove all the items bound for charity.
“We’re hoping it will be done by the end of the week,” Semb said.
Arrangements with Larson were finalized on Thursday, and Western Dairyland sent a mass email to civic groups, area churches, fellow nonprofit organizations and area businesses for volunteer labor. About 20 people signed up in advance, Semb said, but more turned up on Monday and Western Dairyland hopes additional volunteers will stop by today.
Several employees from electronics store Best Buy volunteered their time on Monday afternoon, including Tyler McPherson.
Breaking a sweat after toting dozens of mattresses with fellow volunteers, McPherson took a water break in the lobby. Spending a couple hours lending a hand to charity appealed to him, and also fit into his schedule, he said.
“It’s another excuse to get out too,” McPherson added.
He also appreciated the efficiency of reusing the hotel’s furniture by giving it to those who could make good use of it.
“A lot of the stuff is really nice and pristine,” McPherson said.
More than 190 beds will be harvested from the Clarion, according to Western Dairyland. Semb noted that mattresses appeared in excellent shape and there were even some linens found in their original packaging.
The volunteers packed the furnishings into a U-Haul truck, which made multiple trips during the afternoon to storage space on Eau Claire’s south side, which was also donated by Larson.
When agencies need a bed, a table or chairs for their clients, Western Dairyland will let them borrow the key to the storage area and let them take what they need.
“We’ll let them ‘go shopping’ for free,” Semb said.
For the past two years, the 137-room former Clarion has been used exclusively by UW-Eau Claire for off-campus student housing while its largest dormitory, Karlgaard Towers, was under renovations.
The students who finished their semester last month will be the 46-year-old hotel’s final tenants. Larson intends to demolish the hotel this summer to redevelop the 5.3-acre site with three new buildings.
The first will be a new 90-room hotel that will start construction this summer and open in spring 2020, according to plans approved last month by the city.
The timing of an additional 103-room hotel and building for an as-yet-unknown commercial business, has not yet been announced.
This isn’t the first time an Eau Claire hotel has donated its furniture to charity.
After Pablo Properties bought the former Ramada Convention Center, the new owners allowed several area charities in January 2014 to remove items. The Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association and Hope Gospel Mission were among those to participate with the latter using furnishings for its shelter programs and for sale in its Bargain Center.
Following major renovations, the downtown hotel reopened in spring 2016 as The Lismore Hotel, 333 Gibson St.