Special Needs Parenting :: Trae tha Truth's newly opened Katy ice cream shop employs special needs 'heroes' by Claire Goodman
The employees, called “heroes,” greet customers with an enthusiastic, “Howdy,” and serve up small-batch, homemade frozen treats. The shop offers traditional flavors but also has original creations like “Cookie Nom-ster” and “Fun-L-Cake.”
For rapper Trae tha Truth, the opening of Howdy Ice Cream is especially meaningful. Trae has a son with special needs.
“For me, as a father of a special needs son, I understand the need to give everybody an equal opportunity for employment,” Trae said.
Trae hopes that Howdy Homemade will help normalize the employment of people with special needs and offer meaningful work for them after high school.
“When they leave school, they can actually work here and be great at it,” he said.
A crowd of hundreds gathered outside the Howdy Homemade Ice Cream shop on Thursday, July 22, for the grand opening and rope cutting with the Fulshear Katy Chamber of Commerce.
Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner came out to show his support for Howdy Homemade Ice Cream and its mission of bringing opportunities for employment to adults with special needs.
“Special needs employees — it doesn’t mean they have limitations, it means we have to provide them with the opportunities,” Turner said. “This is my hope: that what Howdy Homemade Ice Cream is doing today, utilizing and employing people with special needs… that this will say to the other businesses, ‘You can do the same thing.’”
Fulshear Katy Chamber of Commerce President Don McCoy echoed Turner’s assessment of the need for employment opportunities for individuals with special needs.
“Howdy Homemade Ice Cream means more to the community than people realize,” he said. “The ‘how’ in Howdy is how the heroes make you smile when you first walk in, how the community responds in a positive way, and how a business like this can bring a true sense of self worth to those whose skills are often overlooked.”
Caytlin Handley, 27, is a hero at Howdy Handmade. She loves her new job and is thrilled to serve ice cream to the community. “I like working in an ice cream place, and I’m excited about eating the ice cream,” Caytlin said. “Everyone has been really nice. I’m excited for a lot of people that will be coming to the place to get their ice cream.”
Caytlin noted that her favorite flavor is “Cookie Nom-ster,” a cookies-and-cream type confection with bright blue coloring.
Caytlin’s mother, Carey Handley, beamed with pride as her daughter scooped up ice cream for customers.
“My daughter has a part time job here, and she feels like she’s part of a community,” Carey said. “And that’s all these people want is to be part of the community.”
Like Turner, Carey hopes that the community will see the success of Howdy and realize the value of employees with special needs. “The special needs community is typically the most vibrant, energetic and loyal staff they could possibly have,” she said. “Yes, it takes longer to train them. It takes more repetition to learn the skills, but once they have it, they have it, and they are joyous.”
Turner added, “Special needs people are not secondary citizens. They are just like you and me. They need the same opportunities, and they need to be given the opportunity to take care of themselves, their families and to live independently.”
Turner was one of the first in line for his Howdy Homemade Ice Cream. As he enjoyed his ice cream, he raved about his choice, “Cinnamon Roll.” “It is absolutely delicious,” Turner said. “It’s even better than it looks, and once you start, you can’t stop.”