St. Vincent de Paul Lane County photo
Daisy rests on a recycled pet bed, another innovative product by St. Vincent de Paul Lane County.
St. Vincent de Paul Lane County photo
Daisy rests on a recycled pet bed, another innovative product by St. Vincent de Paul Lane County.
Homeless people aren’t the only ones who can find a bed with St. Vincent de Paul Lane County.

The organization creates and sells pet beds, a line called Dogma, gleaned from recycled mattresses and upholstery. In a time when many charity organization are struggling to find adequate funding, St. Vincent de Paul in Lane County uses offshoot programs like this one, which relies solely on materials diverted from the waste stream, to supplement the agency’s income.

“Everything funnels back to our overall mission – providing service and helping the poor,” said Mary Sharkey, sales and production manager.

Sharkey has two dogs of her own, Irish wolfhounds, that sleep on Dogma beds. Proceeds from the sale of those beds fund the agencies programs like emergency assistance, affordable housing and homeless services.

Once, Art Taylor said, he was homeless, bankrupt and spiritually broke. While trying to get his life back together in 1989, Taylor was applying for jobs. The leadership at St. Vincent de Paul Lane County took a chance on him. Today he is manager of the mattress shop.

“I’ve grown with the company over the years,” he said. “I love the organization. They help people and they give people opportunities, a chance they might not have had otherwise.”

Taylor believes in the products they create, too. His dog, Roxy, has her own Dogma bed. While her No. 1 sleeping spot is in Taylor’s bed, the 75-pound boxer settles happily into her pet bed when she can’t sleep next to him.

Kevin O’Brien has been charged with business development for the St. Vincent de Paul model. He’s working with two other non-profits, the Mustard Seed in Orlando, Fla., and Park City Green in Bridgeport, Conn., to recreate the mattress recycling program. They share an underlying mission to assisting vulnerable populations.

“This country has the richest waste stream in the world,” O’Brien said. “We either spend money getting ride of stuff forever or figuring our ways to reuse and recycle.”

The Lane County organization also creates and sells EcoFire Starters, made from post-consumer cotton (also from the recycled mattresses) and paraffin from used candles. Like the pet beds, they’re available at most of the St. Vincent de Paul thrift stores.

It’s a hands-on business, and it can at times be dirty, O’Brien said.

“We’re putting people to work, but also saving stuff from going into the landfills,” he said.

Because of these two factors, O’Brien said, the organization has the most loyal workforce he has ever seen in his life.

“We give them a chance when no one else would,” he said. “They love the fact that they recycle for a living and they become the best advertisers for what we do.”

St. Vincent de Paul has six thrift stores in Eugene, two in Springfield, one in Florence, Albany and Oakridge.

While many companies and organizations are decreasing their workforce, St. Vincent de Paul Lane County has increased its revenue and grown its workforce each year by 10 percent, reported Eugene’s daily newspaper, the Register-Guard, in January.

Terry McDonald, who has been executive director for two-and-a-half decades, was called a social entrepreneur by the Stanford Social Innovation Review. Heis leadership is marked by his “ability to see and seize upon new opportunities, the commitment and drive required to pursue them, and an unflinching willingness to bear the inherent risks,” according to authors Roger Martin and Sally Osberg.