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Retirement home creates indoor ice cream truck for residents

Posted at 8:33 PM, Sep 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-09-17 20:33:20-04

It was a welcomed surprise for residents of a retirement community in Jenison last Thursday.

A quick flashback in time to when they were kids, as an ice cream truck made its way past their doors and right down the hallway.

It’s a sweet tradition at Sunset Manor – this time with a twist.

The weekly ice cream delivery got a big boost last week when two ladies decided to change things up.

“Some people really just got a kick out of actually going up to the window and getting ice cream out of the window,” said activities coordinator Dani Neiwenhuis.

Carrie Turnbull, a Grand Rapids Police Recruit and former worker at Sunset, came back for the special surprise.

“It was kind of a way to interact with the residents again and visit them and touch base,” she said.

The two women spent a couple days decorating a massive box turning it into an ice cream truck. It even had cones on the side and music.

They handed out real paddle pops, drumsticks, and ice cream bars.

The decked-out design even had a license plate that read “BRN FRZZ”.

They borrowed a resident’s scooter and went to work.

“A lot of times, you just bring the ice cream to them rather than have them get up and see what’s going on,” said Turnbull. “So they were a little bit curious with that and then seeing the looks on their faces when they popped their head out and saw the truck rolling down the hallway with the music blaring - it was really awesome.”

“I went around and knocked on some doors and I said, ‘there’s an ice cream truck coming down your hall’, and they all look at me like ‘what?’ and then they come to the doorway and they see it and they can hear the music and they just thought it was the greatest thing ever,” said Neiwenhuis.

Especially because some of them are getting really lonely in their rooms. State restrictions make it tough for their families to visit and they’re in the high-risk population for getting COVID.

Bringing them random joy, especially now, seems to lift their spirits. And we all know, you’re never too old for ice cream.

“When they pop their head out the door and that smile just lights up their whole face- it’s just, you know a way of kind of bringing some joy back,” said Turnbull. “They can’t see family and friends, but if you can just bring moments of joy, big smiles to their face it makes a big difference.”

It took about three to four hours to hand out ice cream to more than 400 residents.

Dani says they hope to keep the tradition going and maybe even take the truck to their other locations in the area.