By: SHEA ROBARDS AND JOSEPH SIMILE / STAFF REPORTER AND SPORTS CO-EDITOR
Mere steps away from Canal Street in Lower Manhattan is 42 Walker Street where the inviting edifice of the Luv Michael storefront beacons passersby in with the scent of delicious fresh baked goods.
Luv Michael is a nonprofit organization that was started just six years ago with the small hope of increasing awareness of autism spectrum disorder in adults. How do they do this you may ask? By selling granola, of course!
Raising money and assisting in guiding autistic adults into the workforce, Luv Michael has persevered through the difficulties of COVID-19, staying connected with the community and working outside of the box.
Mark Biondi, who works as a consultant to Luv Michael, helps to grow and cultivate the business behind the scenes through remote work and occasionally travels to other locations to assist with the operations as much as possible.
While the pandemic did create unique challenges for the business, Luv Michael did not falter. Instead, they found a way to make it all happen through online orders to help stay safe and while the world evolved into new versions of “normal,” Luv Michael continued to come up with amazing ways to send their unique granola out to the world.
However, the production of granola was not the only thing affected during COVID, in fact once common practice of in-person volunteer opportunities presented them with a stepping stone to think about how to ensure the company’s longevity.
While reflecting on these changes, Biondi credited COVID with forcing them to think “creatively.”
This creative thinking led Luv Michael to work digitally and come up with the “Walk Around the World'' fundraiser.
This is an initiative where you can participate by raising $35 or more either in a group or individually, then an email will be sent to you to take part in the walk which helps keep you healthy, not to mention helping to promote autism awareness.
The goal of the Walk ultimately being to hit over 40,000 Kilometers, or one lap around the world, to raise awareness and help students collect volunteer hours through fundraising.
How LIU and Luv Michael Became the Perfect Pairing
Seawanhaka has had the opportunity to sit down with Joyce Ho and Matthew Young, the President and Vice President respectively, of Circle K International at LIU. Circle K is an organization that empowers college students through service to local and global communities.
Of Luv Michael, Ho said, "Luv Michael is a welcoming organization that raises awareness for individuals with Autism and gives them opportunities to work. I have friends who have autism and one of my family members does, so it’s a great thing for them to educate others about it. There are so many stereotypes surrounding this topic and Luv Michael is able to debunk those stereotypes with their mission. CKI was able to partner up with them to raise funds and support these individuals. We are big on volunteer service and they have given us the chance to help the community."
When Luv Michael originally got in contact with LIU during the 2019-2020 year, wanting to partner with one of the student ran organizations, Joyce Ho said Circle K jumped at the opportunity.
“One of our main pillars is service,” Ho said, “Knowing that Luv Michael is a non profit that helps and raises awareness for individuals with autism, we wanted to take this opportunity and make something great out of it.”
Circle K has many events coming up to support Luv Michael and other organizations and often plan around mental health awareness and breast cancer awareness.
If you are an LIU student and would like to get involved, be sure to follow Luv Michael on social media to learn more about their mission. Students can also get in contact with LIU Brooklyn’s Circle K for more information on how to volunteer on-campus.