Captain Ice Cream – Kelly Ross Enterprises

by Colonel Richard Munn

Heroic Salvation Army ministry and outreach is associated with the donut for weary soldiers, farthing breakfasts for hungry children, and hot chocolate for shivering firemen. It is the stuff of legend, and it may just be that as a result of the ingenuity, imagination, and initiative of Captain Kelly Ross, ice cream will now be added to that list.

You guessed it, tapping into the concept of using food for missional purposes — a strategy deployed by Jesus all over the gospels — Kelly and her husband, Jonathan, are making inroads into their local community by serving ice cream to the whosoever. Its simplicity is its genius. Who doesn’t love to hear the musical ice cream jingle on a hot and humid summer?

Staff of Good News caught up with Kelly recently, to hear the story behind the story:

When did you first start your outreach with ice cream? 

In my corps appointments, we have always used ice cream to connect with the community. In the early years before the ice cream cart, we would fill coolers with ice cream, pour ice on top, pull the coolers around the different neighborhoods, and hope and pray the ice cream didn’t melt before we gave it all out. When we were at an appointment with a canteen, we would add pictures of the ice cream on the outside of the canteen, play music through the speaker, and drive through the neighborhoods.

What was the process in your mind that led to this delightful and unique ministry? 

I have always loved ice cream and I have seen how it can turn someone’s bad day around. Sharing it affords you some time to get to know the person, see how else you can help them and invite them and their families to the corps.

What led to this unique ministry was a lot of prayer and asking the Lord for guidance. I have always wanted an ice cream truck, but the cart is much cheaper, and this allowed us the opportunity to connect and invite people and families to the corps.

In our previous appointment at Newburgh, N.Y., I wondered about posting our desire for an ice cream cart on Facebook. I felt the Lord say it was time to make the post and a week later we had the approval to purchase our first cart. Now the same for Utica, N.Y., I spent some time praying, and God answered in a big way.

Have there been any notable outcomes that you can share? 

In Newburgh we spent a lot of time bringing the ice cream cart to different community events, getting to know the community, and letting people know all about The Salvation Army. We also intentionally visited an apartment complex and spent time with the children and families there. When we arrived at that appointment, we had very few children attending programs or Sunday school. When we left, 15-20 children attended Sunday school, most from this one complex. One of the young men we met started coming to the corps, attended youth councils, and loved summer camp so much that he applied and spent his first summer working at Star Lake Camp.

I believe Commissioner Bamford came through with great support, is that accurate?

Yes, the first cart was purchased through the support of our divisional commander, Colonel Fernandez. I had put a post on Facebook about wanting a cart, and he saw the post and told me to send him a proposal.

The cart I currently have is from Commissioner Bamford’s support. I shared the original post on Facebook again, and the Commissioner posted right there that we should purchase the cart and send him the bill. I also want to mention I have received support from others to help cover the cost of the ice cream; I am so blessed to have people in my corner who see the value of the ice cream cart ministry.

Finally, do you have any further insights that would be of interest to our readers? 

Be bold and try what some might consider out-of-the-box ministry, especially if the Lord calls you to that ministry. Be in prayer about it, and if the Lord is leading you to do it, he will provide what you need to make the ministry happen, like he did for us.

Please keep the ministry in your prayers; we are in a new community and working on attending different events. I am excited about the opportunity we have to bring the ice cream cart into the schools for the back-to-school nights we will be attending.

Thank you, Kelly. We love your enterprising spirit and your heart for people. Friendly’s, Baskin-Robbins, and Dairy Queen have nothing on you.