We like to think there’s a hint of New Orleans’ fun-loving spirit in every scoop of our chunky and swirly ice cream —whether it’s the funky rhythms and horns marching down the streets, the zesty multicultural combination of flavors that are still simmering after 300 years, or the endless community strength demonstrated since Hurricane Katrina.
When it was announced that our 2015 annual Global Franchisee Meeting would take place in New Orleans this year —for the third time in the Big Easy since 2004— there was a roar of excitement throughout our retail and franchisee networks.
If there’s any group within the Ben & Jerry’s family that knows the mantra, “Work Hard, Play Hard,” it’s our local franchisees who are our lifeline to the cities we love. And, it goes relatively without saying, [but we’ll say it anyway] there’s no other city than New Orleans that symbolizes both components of that mantra.
The Global Franchisee Meeting is a whirlwind of opportunity for both seasoned and rookie franchisees, featuring a packed schedule of educational business sessions, panel discussions, vendor trade shows, and overall brand updates for the new year.
In addition to the business function, the annual meeting always includes a community service day during which hundreds of Ben & Jerry’s employees, board members, business partners, friends and family members join together for a community project.
In 2004, our first Global Franchisee Meeting in New Orleans, the community service day focused on building homes alongside the local Habitat for Humanity chapter within the St. Roch neighborhood.
The second Global Franchisee Meeting in New Orleans —and related community service day— occurred in 2007, when we also partnered with Habitat and contributed to several houses within the Musicians Village neighborhood. This timing was particularly critical, as it occurred two years after Hurricane Katrina.
2015 marks our third such community service day in New Orleans, where we once again partnered with Habitat and worked in the New Orleans East neighborhood. Working from the ground up —literally, digging trenches and installing cinderblock stilts and foundation flooring, all the way up to installing the finishing touches on the interior flooring and exterior trim work— we had over 225 volunteers spread over seven teams working on the numerous phases of home building.
In fact, this was the first project in 2015 aligned with the 10th anniversary of the rebuilding partnership between Habitat and Americorps after Hurricane Katrina. A celebration event is scheduled for May, when they're hosting a Build-A-Thon, during which over 600 volunteers will construct 10 homes on America Street in New Orleans East during a two-week period. For more information or to join the Build-A-Thon, visit Habitat-NOLA.org.
New Orleans zydeco accordion extraordinaire and Grammy winning singer/songwriter Terrance Simien, who happens to be a longtime friend of Ben Cohen since playing the 1998 ‘One World, One Heart’ festival in Vermont, also joined our staff during this year’s community build.
"It was incredibly inspiring to see the joy of the fine Ben & Jerry's folks from around the country as they worked on their community build projects. The exhilaration & inspiration continued to build into the evening until the very end of our performance. It's always an honor to be in the company of greatness — Ben and Jerry, two great men who I've long admired and respected and I always look forward to spending time with. This time was no different and really outtasight because Cynthia and I got to spend quality time with our long time friend Sean, meet the fabulous Greta, righteous Jostein and board member Terry, and to see them all with their beautiful extended ice cream family from around the country. Two words describe the experience. Pure. Love,” said Terrance.
Terrance Simien & The Zydeco Experience did a special performance after the day’s work was done, when they lit up the room playing both classic zydeco and Cajun songs New Orleans funk, covers of The Band, Bob Marley, Rolling Stones and CSNY, as well as new tracks from their recent album ‘Dockside Sessions’.