Vince Lovenduski and his wife, Shelly, noticed that opportunities for socialization for their special needs son, Austin, became rarer and rarer as he became an adult. With 1889 Foundation support, they decided to do something about it by founding Sustainable Employment for Adults with Disabilities (SEADS) Garden Center, in the former Flower Barn facility in the Westmont neighborhood of Johnstown.
The mission of the new non-profit is to employ adults with disabilities — including autism, learning disabilities, or emotional challenges – at a garden center selling annuals, perennials, shrubs, and vegetable plants. The goal is to provide them with a healthy outlet for socialization and building self-esteem, and also an economic boost.
The Lovenduskis are using 1889 support to make the facility compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, to create a “sensory room” for the special needs employees, and to train managers on interaction and response skills in working with them.
“What I’ve put into it, I get 10 times more out of it, and my goal is that this will continue long after I retire,” Lovenduski says. “The employees love coming to work. When they succeed, we succeed.”
Currently, there are eight special-needs employees, each with a work schedule tailored to their individual needs. Lovenduski plans to expand the facility next year, doubling its capacity and hiring even more.