In 2019, Vince Lovenduski – a 1979 Saint Francis alum with a degree in Accounting – launched a nonprofit garden and nursery in the Johnstown suburb of Westmont called S.E.A.D.S of Love (Sustainable Employment for Adults with Disabilities).
“When I heard about his S.E.A.D.S of Love initiative, I was very moved by the whole thing,” said Father Malachi.
“I thought to myself, ‘what a wonderful way to reach out to folks who have needs and what a wonderful way to be a friend to them, to mentor them, and to really engage them in an uplifting way.’”
With the support and help of his family, Lovenduski – a retired restaurant manager turned entrepreneur – was able to launch S.E.A.D.S of Love. He hires employees with autism. They interact with customers, practice horticulture, and are inclusive and friendly within the work environment.
On Feb. 4, Lovenduski returned to Saint Francis and visited with two of Professor of English Tim Bintrim’s LIT 104 Medicine and Literature classes.
“He told my class that he wasn’t made to sit behind a desk, and he found that out, so he had a career in restaurant management, retired and now he’s working 70 hours a week,” said Bintrim.
“He’s happy and he’s making a lot of people happy.”
Lovenduski currently employs eight people with autism. Due to the overwhelming support his business has received, he plans to build two new greenhouses this spring and hopes to hire seven part-time employees with special needs.
Lovenduski is also looking to create a quiet space for his employees.
“There’s a residence on the property and he’s making sort of a quiet room there, a decompression room, a sensory readjustment room where the employees can go and sort of cool down if they have a bad day.
“Or if they just need to relax or get away from too much stimulation.”
During his visit, Lovenduski also met with Father Malachi and other administrators and faculty to speak with them about potential ways SFU can collaborate with S.E.A.D.S. of Love.
“I was really captivated by the stories he was telling and the transformations that has taken place in people’s lives,” said Father Malachi.
“I think our students would happily participate in something like this. I know our faculty would really be energized by this.
“I look forward to good things to come.”