• Meghan Harvey

SEADS Garden Center: Sustainable Employment for Adults with Disabilities

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

SEADS Garden Center in Johnstown, PA is doing more than supplying the community with beautiful plants and flowers. The nonprofit organization is providing sustainable employment opportunities for adults with disabilities.

SEADS, which stands for Sustainable Employment for Adults with Disabilities, has been open for about 6 weeks, and it is already a community favorite.

First Frontier Forward sat down with Vince Lovenduski, founder of SEADS Garden Center, to discuss what the organization is doing for the greater Johnstown area.

“We currently have 8 special needs adults on our payroll,” says Vince. “They love being here. They can’t wait to be here. They come in here and they’re learning all about nature and growing plants.”

Vince, who has a 23 year old son with autism, says it’s frustrating to see all the roadblocks when it comes to finding full-time employment for adults with disabilities. “To maintain employment has been very difficult. We want to give our son the building blocks to have a meaningful life.”

Although there are a variety of government programs available to help adults with disabilities find work, it’s usually not reliable employment. “You come in for a certain amount of time, and usually at the end of that time, you move on to something else,” says Vince. “Very rarely is it sustainable and long-term.”

SEADS Garden Center has not lost one employee since opening, and Vince hopes his employees will stay with him for many years down the road. “This isn’t about me, this isn’t about our horticulturalists, this is about them. They are the focus,” says Vince. “People come in just to watch them beam with excitement over the plants they helped grow.”

The idea for SEADS Garden Center came to Vince as he was driving to Elk County to mow his mother’s lawn. As he was driving over Clearfield Mountain, a radio station cut in on the station he had been originally listening to. Over the static, he was able to catch the words “smile farms” and “employment for adults with special needs.”

Vince was immediately interested in finding out about the organization, which he researched as soon as he got home. He came to learn that Smile Farms was located in Long Island. After sharing a few emails with the organization, Vince, his wife, and his son made the trip to Smile Farms, where they toured the facilities and met with the president.

“We asked them to come to Johnstown to open another Smile Farms. However, they respectfully declined. They just weren’t set up for it,” says Vince. “I turned to my wife and said, ‘Okay, I’ll do it myself.’”

With the help of his wife and the support of the community, Vince was able to start SEADS Garden Center, which has surpassed everything he hoped it would be. “It has just been beyond my wildest expectations,” Vince says. “The Johnstown community has been amazing to us. We’re really thankful for everybody and their support. We’ve been very fortunate.”

Although Vince wishes he could hire more people at this time, SEADS Garden Center has completed hiring for the season. However, as the garden center grows, there will be room for more employees in the future.

Stop by SEADS Garden Center located at 32 Bucknell Ave in Johnstown, PA.

Visit them online at https://seadsgardencenter.com/, and on Facebook @SEADSGardenCenter.

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