WENATCHEE — Everyone was a winner Monday when they showed up at the Wenatchee Convention Center for an offer of free furniture that once filled two Las Vegas casino hotels.
“There was a line of 40 people here when we opened the doors at 10 a.m. It really got busy by 11,” said Gerald Anglin, who was helping people pick out and load dressers, end tables, couches and chairs that had earlier filled the convention center’s spacious Orchard Exhibit Hall. Most of the bigger and best quality items like love seats, hutches, dressers, end tables and newer televisions were gone by noon. “The furniture was of a lot higher quality than I expected.”
Anglin, 67, a Cashmere resident and Vietnam War veteran, reserved a lounge chair for himself. “If the wife approves of it. You don’t bring things home without the wife’s permission,” he said.
The giveaway was supposed to last through Wednesday and possibly into next week, but so many people showed up Monday that organizers expected today would be the last day the furniture would be available. The giveaway of two semi-truck loads of surplus furniture was open to U.S. military veterans or any of their relatives.
“I didn’t think we’d get this kind of turnout,” said Thad Lawson, Chelan-Douglas Counties VetCorps coordinator. More than 180 people had registered to take some of the furniture by 11 a.m Monday. People were allowed to take up to three pieces of furniture plus smaller furnishings like pillows, curtains and lamps.
Lawson, who organized the event, said the turnout showed how much of a need there is in the valley.
“Most of this stuff will be gone today, so essentially this turned out to be a one-day event instead of a six-day event,” he said. He said there was little abuse of the event, although he did stop one person who was trying to load several televisions into his vehicle.
“There were about 15 people who said they weren’t veterans, but they were definitely in need so I couldn’t turn them down,” he said.
The furniture was declared surplus from ongoing remodels of the Tropicana and Flamingo hotels in Las Vegas. The lot was acquired by a coordinator for a VA homeless housing organization in Las Vegas and made available to other veterans organizations, said Lawson. He heard about the offer and approached local businesses to come up with $7,000 to pay for transportation from Las Vegas to Wenatchee.
“I’m going to try to raise $10,000 and bring in three truck loads next year,” said Lawson, who organized a military stand down in September to give away military clothing and gear. That event brought in 622 takers, including many veterans who were also registered for military benefits. The furniture event was far less formal, but there were tables set up for local groups that offer help to homeless veterans.
The lot of furniture included between 20 and 200 dressers, hutches, TV stands, end tables, coffee tables, couches, easy chairs, dining and outdoor chairs, televisions, bed frames, mirrors, brass lamps and framed pictures. By noon, there were still dozens of chairs, mirrors bed headboards, curtains and pillows, but little else.
“Me and my wife moved into a new apartment so we thought we’d come down and see what they had,” said Thomas Dickerson of Waterville. Dickerson was pushing a long dresser on a cart out of the convention center. His wife had another cart loaded with a television, mirror, four pictures and several pillows. Dickerson said he was with a Navy construction batallion in Saudi Arabia during the Gulf War. “We were too late to get one of those end tables, but this is really nice stuff.”
Rick Steigmeyer: 664-7151