Robin Rinearson, OD ’77, was not actually intending to become an optometrist. She had her heart set on veterinary school. She had applied and been accepted but was $500 short when the fall semester tuition rolled around. “I worked three jobs that summer to go on to vet school. In those days, you could only access student loans based on specific qualifications. I did not qualify for student loans; so, I didn’t go to vet school.”
Unbeknownst to her, her father Ralph Swetlow, OD ’50 (CCO) had secretly sent in an application to ICO and paid the first years’ tuition. So, she ended up in ICO's Class of 1977. The rest, as they say, is history.
For over 40 years, Dr. Rinearson ran a successful practice in Bailey's Crossroads, VA. “I practiced developmental and pediatric optometry for most of my career. I was working with people with either learning disabilities or people on the autism spectrum or with patients with various other developmental disabilities.” After decades of hard work, she was ready to retire and explore the world. Then the pandemic hit.
During the pandemic, her nephew Jake, who has cerebral palsy, was laid off from his job. A year later he was still unemployed. “Our practice managed to stay open during the entire pandemic. We were open, and no one got sick. After the first few months, there wasn't any requirement for workplaces to stay shut if you could follow CDC guidelines. Jake's former employer stayed open and continues to make products, but they made no accommodations for Jake or any of the other 17 special-needs adults who were working there.” So, Dr. Rinearson took matters into her own hands and decided to pivot. She opened an ice cream shop.
Jake's Ice Cream has now been open for a year and half, and very soon, Jake’s Gourmet Popcorn will also open.
Here are just a few snapshots from her life as an ice cream store owner who employs a whole team of special-needs adults: