Hody’s Ice Cream Brings Opportunities To The Special Needs Community

Lindie Bell, Feature Editor

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Heidi Nielson sat tearing up, while reflecting on the challenges and the joys of having son with special needs. The minute Jack Nielson turned 21, he was no longer the eligible age for the public school program and his parents immediately tried to help him find a job. They soon found out that it was much harder than planned. They felt hopeless when they realized that there was not much for their son to participate in. After going through the government assisted program, they learned that it could take up to 18 months to find a job for Jack. Instead of sitting by and waiting for a job to appear for him, they started their own business. The Nielson’s saw a change that needed to be made in the special needs community, and established Howdy’s Homemade Ice Cream.

Howdy’s is more than an exceptional ice cream store, it’s employed with angels. The store gives teens and adults with special needs the opportunity to have some experience in a work place. The Neilson’s opened Howdy’s because of the hardships that have come with trying to find a job for their son Jack.

“You learn so much love for everyone,” Heidi said reflectively while pondering what strengths raising a boy with special needs has given her.

“You see a mother with a child acting up in the store, and you don’t judge thinking it’s an unruly child, you think this could be a child with special needs. It makes you more of a compassionate person.” Heidi said.

It’s obvious through her actions and her words that raising her son Jack has shaped and humbled Heidi and her whole family. Jack has given them a unique perspective and a different insight into what our community needs. The homemade ice cream shop is evidence of their genuine care, love and understanding for the special needs community.

“The best part of the shop is the employees, all of our employees other than two mangers have special needs or disabilities,” Wil Nielson who manages the store said.

“Our employees are the most fun, loving, happy, and ready to be here and ready to work people. Learning that from them and incorporating it into my own life has been the most rewarding part,” Wil said.

Meeting bright faces like James Knight is the benefit of going to Howdy’s. Knight is full of passion and excitement, eager to help his customers. He is the spirit master at East High School, and his enthusiasm carries over into his job.

“I like seeing all the friendly faces that come in. I like serving ice cream, and eating ice cream for that matter,” Knight says.

Knight is thankful for the opportunity that Howdy’s has given him to have a job and develop new relationships with people.

“Working at Howdy’s has helped me make money, save up, and stay grounded as a human being. I would just be bored without it,” Knight said.

It’s a learning experience for the managers Wil Nielson and Coutrney Kirk. The two have gained insight into the lives of others from working with their sweet employees

“The number one thing I have learned is patience. Not in the sense that people would think, because it’s been difficult to work with these employees or anything, it’s because I have come to know we don’t know how they are feeling, and sometimes it is hard for them to express it,” Wil says while contemplating the impact the employees have made on him.

“We never know exactly what’s going on in someone’s life, in someone’s head or what they’re going through and how difficult even just everyday tasks can be for someone. That has allowed me to incorporate patience into my life,” Wil said.

The Nielson’s have observed that Howdy’s is the perfect gathering place for families. They see something change when people walk into that store. Customers put down their phones, and they interact with and get to know the employees. It has a wholesome

The atmosphere and over all feel of Howdy’s will have you leaving the store with a smile, brightening your whole day.

Ice cream has been a classic pick me up, ever since its beginning. But there is more to Howdy’s ice cream, you won’t be temporarily happy because of your treat, you’ll be brightened for the week because of the sweet people you met, the love you felt, and the smiles you saw at Howdy’s Homemade Ice Cream.

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