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RECYCLING FIRM THAT HELPED HOMELESS CLOSES ITS DOORS

SHARE RECYCLING FIRM THAT HELPED HOMELESS CLOSES ITS DOORS

A non-profit recycling company that provided transitional work for homeless people closed its doors Monday.

Depressed markets for paper and cardboard, bad weather, a lack of capital and little community interest did in SPIN Recycling. Paul Ahlstrom, who founded the company, pumped thousands of dollars and hours into the business during its 14 months in operation."I basically got to the point where I couldn't fund it anymore," he said.

At its peak, SPIN had 15 employees who emptied the company's 100 aluminum can receptacles and picked up office paper and wooden pallets for recycling. SPIN had accounts with 100 small businesses and several large ones, including WordPerfect and Nu Skin International. Both companies canceled money-making contracts with commercial recycling companies in Salt Lake City to donate their waste paper to SPIN.

Ahlstrom hired homeless people, recently released jail inmates and those with drug or alcohol abuse problems.

"The idea was to give them a working environment to get on their feet, work out their problems and then go out in the community to look for a job," he said.

Ahlstrom, a Brigham Young University graduate who owns a software company in California, never expected SPIN to turn a profit, but it had to at least break even.

"It wasn't a moneymaker. It provided a service to the community while meeting a need for the homeless population," he said. "I really believe in the concept. I saw a need. I really wanted to light a fire under other people."

Getting the word out proved expensive and almost futile. Three fund-raising activities organized by Ahlstrom last year - a concert, bike-a-thon and direct appeal to large corporations - netted $1,100. He shelled out $2,000 to put them on.

SPIN wasn't able to get businesses and individuals involved in recycling. Ahlstrom said he discovered that it's "not a top priority." And that pains him.

"There's a ton of paper that's going to go into the landfill. That kills me after all the work I put in," he said.