South Florida nonprofit Delicious Spoonfuls serves ice cream and the community by employing people with special needs
By Sara Perez Webber
With each scoop of ice cream, Delicious Spoonfuls is empowering people with special needs by helping them earn a paycheck.
Founders Helen and Robert Gottesman have been planning the mobile ice cream cart nonprofit—designated a 501(c)(3) in February—for six years. They were inspired by their son Adir, who has Down syndrome. “The problem is there are so many people with disabilities who can’t find a job,” says Helen.
The Gottesmans train their “clients”—the term they use for their employees with special needs, including Down syndrome, autism and mental illness—to scoop ice cream and ensure that they’re trained in food safety. Both former educators, the Gottesmans are developing audio and visual training specifically designed for special-needs learners.
Based in Boca Raton, Florida, the Delicious Spoonfuls ice cream cart can be hired for events in South Florida. Customers choose their ice cream flavors in advance, and Delicious Spoonfuls orders the ice cream from various wholesalers they work with, including the Chocolate Shoppe in Madison, Wisconsin. All varieties offered by Delicious Spoonfuls are kosher.
The Gottesmans have been getting the word out by joining chambers of commerce and bringing Delicious Spoonfuls to business expos. For each Delicious Spoonfuls event, two or three clients assist with scooping and serving the ice cream.
“One of our biggest success stories is Evan,” says Robert. “He’s 42 years old, and we were the first people to train or hire him. His first paycheck was $77, and he was ecstatic. We need to do more events so we can pay and hire more clients.”
With the goal of booking wedding receptions, Delicious Spoonfuls will soon be listed on The Knot and WeddingWire, says Robert. The Gottesmans’ networking has opened up other doors, including a connection with graduate students at the University of Central Florida, who are helping them create a strategic plan. They’ve also heard from people who’ve offered to help with grant writing.
Fundraising is a priority, as the nonprofit needs a van to transport the ice cream and cart to each event; currently the Gottesmans must rent a truck for each outing. As their capacity expands, so, too, will the types of clients Delicious Spoonfuls brings onboard.
“We’re hoping not only to employ people who are high-functioning, but lower-functioning as well,” says Helen. “We’re also thinking about taking on veterans.”
Adds Robert: “We’re trying to be a voice for people out there to make them as functional as possible.”
The Gottesmans’ labor of love has helped their son Adir. Helen says Adir was “very proud” to learn how to use a POS system at the Annual Family Café, a convention in Orlando for Floridians with disabilities and their families.
“I love to work with ice cream, and I love serving ice cream for people,” says Adir. “It’s fun.”
To learn more about or to donate to Delicious Spoonfuls, visit deliciousspoonfuls.org.