Fort Meyers, Fla.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--There is a tradition that occurs every time Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shop owners gather together and it has very little to do with ice cream. As hundreds of franchisees, shop staff, and corporate employees came together for the annual franchise meeting it was evident what the priority was: others. The first official activity of the meeting was a community service project focused on restoring the Harlem Heights neighborhood in Fort Meyers.
The small Harlem Heights community, just miles from the Gulf of Mexico, was the recipient of hundreds of eager hands which made light work of the sizable task. "This is what we do," claimed Retail Operations Director, Debra Heintz. Although Heintz' job usually entails overseeing all franchisee operations, today, her job was working shoulder-to-shoulder with the franchisees to paint houses in the neighborhood. "It's a great start to our meeting and really sets the tone for who we are," Heintz added, as specks of paint dotted her hands and wrists from her efforts. Various teams were divided up to tackle the refurbishing projects including painting, landscaping, cleaning, and organizing goods at the Harlem Heights thrift shop.
The group gathered at the Harlem Heights Park, centrally located in the middle of the project, before heading out to refurbish thirty different homes in the area. The park itself was the recipient of a new look receiving fresh paint which brightened up the play structures faded underneath Florida's scorching sun. Happy neighborhood kids hopped and skipped between the newly painted swing sets and slides. The young and young-at-heart residents were treated to an ice cream social with the employees to celebrate a job well done.
Ben & Jerry's 2009 Global Franchise Community Gathering began January 15 and will continue through January 18th at the Sanibel Harbor Resort. The meeting attendees include both U.S. franchise owners as well as global franchisees from the United Kingdom, Germany, Mexico and many more locations.
"We know it's a tough economic time across the country for all businesses," said CEO - Chief Euphoria Officer – Walt Freese. "It makes it that much more important for us to review our business plans and goals, to reenergize our batteries, and hit the ground running in 2009," Freese added.
During the conference, attendees discuss the company's business priorities, strategic initiatives, and the latest developments of its social mission: to give back to the community. Multiple workshops are offered from marketing to managing, and cakes to catering. An awards banquet/costume party, with the theme "It's a jungle out there!" is scheduled for the last day of the conference.
The Heights Foundation is a grass-roots, hands on organization that provides educational and life-changing opportunities for families in the Harlem Heights community. Through education and the arts, they inspire at-risk children to lead purposeful lives, breaking the chains of poverty. Harlem Heights was settled in the 1940's as a rural farm-working community. Over the years, development has encroached, leaving laborers without work. Many of the families fell into poverty, further compounded by property values and high cost of living. Over 1,200 children live in the neighborhood, with many multi-generational families. Visit http://www.heightsfoundation.org
Ben & Jerry's produces a wide variety of super-premium ice cream and ice cream novelties, using high-quality ingredients including milk and cream from family farmers who do not treat their cows with the synthetic hormone rBGH. The company states its position on rBGH on its labels. Ben and Jerry's products are distributed nationwide and in selected foreign countries in supermarkets, grocery stores, convenience stores, franchise Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shops, restaurants and other venues. Ben & Jerry's, a Vermont corporation and wholly-owned subsidiary of Unilever, operates its business on a three-part Mission Statement emphasizing product quality, economic reward and a commitment to the community. Contributions made via the employee led Ben & Jerry's Foundation in 2007 totaled approximately $1.7 million. Additionally, the company makes significant product donations to community groups and nonprofits both in Vermont and across the nation. The purpose of Ben & Jerry's philanthropy is to support the founding values of the company: economic and social justice, environmental restoration and peace through understanding, and to support our Vermont communities.