Ice cream power

Originally Published 04/20/00

April 18, 2000
Ben & Jerry’s in Georgetown
3:35 p.m.

After a weekend of forced peace, love and pepper spray on campus, it was good to know that at least one hippie bastion can still manage to spread its message without taking back the streets or vandalizing Funger.

Instead of Free Mumia, the chant was Free Cone Day at Ben & Jerry’s in Georgetown Tuesday. In an effort to raise thousands of dollars for the second phase of construction of a playground in Southeast D.C., the venerable ice cream establishment gave away free single scoops (cone or dish) and donated the tips to Project Playground. The American University student-led group erected a groovy-looking play area for kids this weekend, with the help of some 300 of their fellow students, volunteers from two churches and even parolees from a nearby prison.

This project has been life-altering, said Alexis Lantz, an AU senior and a coordinator of the undertaking. Between bites of a Chubby Hubby sugar cone, Lantz simultaneously explained the history of the playground and shouted for shoppers across M Street to ditch Banana Republic and come get their just desserts.

It was amazing, she said of the weekend’s activities on the playground site, where the AU students set up a carnival for the kids, so they could help out too. The children created a picture book about building the $35,000 playground – complete with zip-line and rock-climbing wall – which will be published soon.

I’ve never really been involved in community service before, she said. This is just going to make such a difference to so many people.

Lantz was mostly hoping generous ice-cream eaters wouldn’t be deterred by the dreary weather. At their yearly customer-appreciation free-for-alls, the donations usually average $3,000. The Project Playground crew will need at least that much to get going on the basketball courts that will accompany the main amusement complex, Lantz said.

Inside ice cream central, a couple thousand people had already been served since the store opened at noon. A pack of frenzied employees worked at light-speed to satisfy the hungry crowd, many of whom said they wouldn’t miss a free scoop of their favorite flavor for the world.

Wind, rain, snow or hail, I was going to get here, said John Miller, a Georgetown senior snacking on Cherry Garcia.

Florence Davidson, who works in the area, called herself a Ben & Jerry’s veteran.

The ice cream is a little expensive here, but I know it’s going to a good cause, she said, dabbing Chubby Hubby from the corners of her mouth. At the next booth, six-year-old Will Vandenburgh described his ideal playground in a blank book left out by the Project Playground crew.

Monkey bars and swings, he said merrily. But I’ll see that later, I’m having lots of fun here today.

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