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88 Counties: Spangler Candy, Williams County schools find sweet ways to help each other during COVID-19 pandemic

When the company needed thermometers, schools helped out. And now, plexiglass dividers created by the candy factory are helping Bryan Elementary School stay open.

BRYAN, Ohio — We continue our 88 Counties in 88 Days by taking you to Williams County.

Williams County is home to Spangler Candy in Bryan, Ohio. In a story of good community neighbors, we show you how the company found a creative way to help the local schools during the pandemic.

Kirk Vashaw, chairman and CEO of Spangler Candy, explains: 

"I’m Kirk Vashaw I’m the chairman and CEO of Spangler Candy. And we’re here at our factory 500-thousand square feet in Bryan, Ohio. It’s the lollipop capital of the world. Spangler has been here since 1906, so this is our 114th year that we’ve been right here in Bryan, Ohio. We’ve been on this site, in the building behind me, over 100 years.  

Credit: WTOL
Spangler Candy CEO Kirk Vashaw explains how the company and schools in Bryan have helped each other through the COVID-19 pandemic.

"Back when COVID started and we realized we needed to start taking people’s temperatures every day, there were no thermometers out in the community because everyone had bought up all the thermometers.  

"The schools had closed, and they had thermometers so they lent us the infrared thermometers for us to keep our factory going. And then as school started to open up, they realized we need these plexiglass barriers. 

"Well, the schools are in the business of educating kids, and we’re in the business of making things. So we already knew how to make these plexiglass barriers. So we teamed up with the schools so we provided some of these barriers.  We’ve heard that some of the kindergarteners have written thank you notes to some of our employees who put together these plexiglass barriers so we’re looking forward to reading some of those," Vashaw said. 

We traveled to Bryan Elementary to see those dividers in action as kids are back in classrooms. 

Credit: WTOL
Bryan Elementary School students sit behind the plexiglass dividers created by Spangler Candy.

"So we are in Bryan Elementary and what you’re looking at are plexiglass dividers that Spangler Candy made for us.  I am thrilled to have our kids in the building.  As of right now the plexiglass has been a huge help to having us stay here in person," said Karen Cox, director of Elementary Education for Bryan Schools. 

The dividers are providing not only safety for students, but peace of mind for teachers at the school. 

"Dividers make my job so much easier.  Because they can sit in their spots, stay where they need to be, have their supplies and yet I can still go around and do what I need to know and know that they are safe," said Bryan Elementary teacher Chris Hupe. 

Credit: WTOL
Spangler Candy, established in 1906, is located in the Williams County city of Bryan, established in 1840. Bryan is the seat of Williams County.

Ned Ruffer, the maintenance supervisor for Bryan schools, praised Spangler for helping out in a way that makes a difference for his team.

"I don’t think we could have pulled it off without them. I don’t think we had the means to get the materials and the things that were needed for a safe opening," he said. 

Spangler worker Bob Woodbury, who was part of the installation team, said he's happy to help. 

"It makes me feel good to know that as a group of us that can help out the community and help out all the students and teachers as well here. Helping keep everyone safe."