The arrival of the Democratic National Convention in September 2012 will be a boon for regional tourism - and perhaps the needy as well.
Thousands of pieces of hotel furniture could be made available for the community's low-income families through a new nonprofit partnership with the city's hotels.
The dressers, beds, desks and nightstands will be distributed through a free furniture bank operated by Crisis Assistance Ministry.
Sid Smith, executive director of the Charlotte Area Hotel Association, helped create the partnership and is encouraging hotels to participate. He says it's tough to know how many hotels are planning renovations, but he predicts the bulk will occur later this year or the first quarter of 2012.
"I think we'll see a flurry of activity right after the New Year," says Smith, who hopes the initiative will become a permanent part of the way local hotels dispose of furniture.
"To me, when they renovate is not nearly as important as the creation of a pipeline through which there is a continuous flow to needy families."
That's what Crisis Assistance Ministry is hoping, too. It came up with the idea after getting calls from a few renovating hotels earlier this summer.
Among them was the Holiday Inn Center City, which is in the midst of redoing all 294 of its rooms. To date, it has donated six floors of furniture, much of it dressers, desks, nightstands and headboards.
Used mattresses are also accepted by the furniture bank, which treats them to make them safe for reuse.
The hotel partnership comes after Mecklenburg County saw a 36 percent jump last year in the number of homeless families.
Several programs have recently been unveiled to get more of those families back into housing. And the furniture bank helps by allowing the families to use their money on bills, rather than furniture.
"A chair, a bed and a kitchen table are emblems of stability," says Betsy McDonald, who manages the furniture bank for Crisis Assistance. "It can make all the difference."
Among those recently helped by the bank is Joy Miller, the mother of a 3-year-old. Miller, 23, got a new job and recently stabilized her budget with guidance from the nonprofit Community Link.
The furniture bank gave her everything from beds to a kitchen table and chairs.
"We had been sleeping and eating on the floor, so it was like Christmas when the furniture came," says Miller.
"We cooked dinner, ate off our new table and (my daughter) fell asleep in our new bed with her head in my arms. It was like we had a real home again."