Cookie Cookie Ice Cream Gives Folks With Special Needs A Sweet Spot To Work

The Kennedy artisanal ice cream shop partners with the state Office of Vocational Rehabilitation.


A school bus full of kids rumbles to a stop in front of Cookie Cookie Ice Cream in Kennedy. With squeals of delight, the children burst through the shop door, stand on tippy toes and peer into the display cases, their eyes and smiles widening. 

The employees are just as excited to see them. Samples are dispensed. Decisions are made. Fun is had by all. Cookie Cookie Ice Cream sells desserts, but the story behind the family-run business is even sweeter. 

Since opening on Sept. 10, Connie and Ken Feda and their brood have worked with the Pennsylvania Office of Vocational Rehabilitation to train special needs transition students to make and sell cookies, ice cream and coffee.

“It’s incredibly relevant and important to put people with disabilities in the community with a job in actual, functional ways,” Connie says.  


Cookie Cookie goes the extra mile when it comes to customer and community service, but it’s also a for-profit business that makes a killer ice cream sandwich. 

You can customize yours, but I personally recommend the house specialty Fat Elvis: two scoops of banana ice cream between a thick, chewy peanut butter cookie and an equally enormous chocolate crinkle. They serve it in a basket with a spoon because this is a king-sized, sorry, The King-sized, sammie! Wise folks say you must take your time with it — you don’t want a brain freeze after all — sit and enjoy every bite. You’ll thankmeverymuch later.

So, how did this hunka-hunka frozen love come to be? 

Addison Fox was fed up with his career in Madison, Wisconsin’s tech industry, so, after taking a few business courses and a meditative trip to Iceland (The Birthplace of Ice Cream?) He moved back home to the ’Burgh to live a more analog life.

His mom and stepfather, Connie and Ken Feda, were also looking for a change; something they could do with their adult special needs daughter, Hannah. The 23-year-old has Down Syndrome and one heck of a work ethic. 

The family of eight put their heads together over home-baked Christmas cookies and hatched a cool plan.

“I didn’t want to do a full bakery,” Connie says. “That’s a lot and I’m just somebody’s mom who bakes cookies.”

Icing down the menu options and opening an artisanal ice cream sandwich joint seemed like the best option. 

Addison enrolled in Penn State University’s Ice Cream Short Course for a “cow-to-cone” education and was ready to make the move from software designer to hard-packed ice cream maker. But a global pandemic put those plans in a deep freeze.

But the Fedas thawed them out last March when they signed the lease on the former Bob’s Diner space in Kennedy Center, 1815 Mckees Rocks Road. 

Luckily, the diner relocated to the neighboring storefront so you can eat breakfast before chilling out at Cookie Cookie, which also sells pastries, milkshakes, sundaes, floats, coffee, tea, ice cream by the cup or in to-go pints and quarts. Their addictive UNIcorn snack is available in 5-ounce bags. Imagine a cheese doodle sans cheese that is instead drizzled in homemade caramel and topped with a Lucky Charms marshmallow. 

There’s also magic in the day-to-day operations.


No matter what they’re doing behind the counter or in the back of the house, the employees gain a sense of self-esteem and independence and patrons get a great deal, even if they have to wait a little bit longer for it. 

“There’s something I’ve figured out after 23 years,” Connie says. “The only thing that is different between Hannah accomplishing a task and my other children accomplishing a task is time. We are constantly streamlining our operation while still preserving the feeling that nobody is rushed.”

Cookie Cookie eliminates time as a factor as much as possible by making the dough a day or two ahead, cutting and freezing it and then baking throughout the day so the treats are at their fresh-from-the-oven best. (I’m adding a warm Fat Elvis to my Death Row Last Meal menu.)

Business hours are 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday. The five staff members with intellectual disabilities do everything from scooping ice cream and cleaning to placing branded stickers on cardboard cups, a simple task but a valuable lesson. 

Reese Feda, 20, who uses the pronouns they/them, provides one-on-one coaching through their job at Bender Leadership Academy, a Moon-based organization that helps people with disabilities on paths to employment, including at Cookie Cookie. 

Workers spent 13 weeks doing on-site training. The current staff — including Montour High School students — is about a third of the way through the program. If they are improving but not ready to be hired, they can join the next wave if they’re still interested. 

It’s hard to resist such a sweet gig. 

Although Connie humbly says the cookies are mostly made with love and a lot of butter, the ice cream production is more complex. 

Addison is the ice cream man/mad scientist who creates tasty desserts using plant-based ingredients. Of the 16 flavors available on a given day, eight are regulars and four are dairy-free options. 

The machine creating the magic is a Carpigiani vertical batch freezer manufactured in Italy. Air is folded into the ingredients rather than whipped, creating a more uniform and creamier product. 

Addison enjoys making tiny test batches to gauge the public’s interest in eclectic flavors such as chili fig and sage pecan. 

You can get a boozier spin on Cookie Cookie Ice Cream at Drink the Cookie Table 2, a dessert beer festival being held at Necromancer Brewing Co. in Ross in March. Dem Bones Brewing is adding 5 quarts of their raspberry ice cream to the fermenter to create a raspberry snickerdoodle ice cream sandwich sour. 

The best-seller at the shop is Stracciatella, a gelato with super fine speckles of chocolate. Cookie Cookie sold a lot of the stuff during a Feb. 18 fundraiser for Camp PARC (People Always Responding with Compassion), a residential summer camp in Somerset County for adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

It’s run by a married couple, Ted and Judy Risch, retired elementary school teachers who met as campers themselves in 1960, when the camp was just a business-as-usual getaway, not a resource for people with special needs. They had such fond memories of the place in Laurel Hill State Park that they thought everyone should experience summertime joys like campfires and hikes. 

Every July there are unique camping sessions available for individuals ages 6 and older. Under adult supervision, campers are paired with junior counselors who will provide around-the-clock attention. 

It’s a place near and dear to Connie’s heart, so she was happy to host the fundraiser, which was also a food drive and birthday party for Desarae Legros, a local social media influencer who is racking up followers with her funny cooking demonstrations and collaborations with local businesses, including spooky Sabatello’s Bakery in Jefferson Hills. 

“Everything about this journey has been a leap of faith and a soft pillow on the other end,” the matriarch says. “My mother always told me I jump into things with both feet and don’t look. Being in this space with the students and the customers who support them has completely renewed my faith in people. It’s happy, inclusive and delicious.”

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