Mayor's meeting

Bill Martin, president of Spangler Candy Co. and coordinator of the Williams County COVID Defense Team, speaks to county officials at the Williams County Mayors Association meeting Wednesday evening. He updated them on the COVID defense team, including a new event called “Brew and Chew.”

MONTPELIER — The Williams County COVID Response Team is looking at hosting ‘Brew and Chew’ events at local restaurants.

The idea was discussed at the Williams County Mayors Association Meeting Wednesday evening.

Bill Martin, Spangler Candy Co. president and coordinator of the county COVID Defense Team, gave a rundown of the statewide initiative to the mayors and the efforts put in by local leaders, many of whom were the mayors, themselves.

While the team started just by spreading the word about the importance of social distancing, mask wearing and hand washing, he said they eventually changed tactics and messaging to focus on things like mental health.

That’s where the High Five to Thrive came in, where people could send paper “high fives” to people, businesses and organizations. The high five, just a picture of a hand on a sheet of paper, is colored and sent out to the recipient with a positive message.

Anyone can give one to any person or business for different reasons, such as to restaurants for opening up to organization meetings, schools for offering in-person classes and to neighbors for helping plow their driveways.

“Preschool kids — I’m talking 3 years old — delivered them to their favorite teachers, favorite cafeteria workers and from what I’m hearing there were tears,” Martin said. “There were some teachers in the Bryan school system who were really moved by this 3 or 4 year old, wearing a mask, bringing up a high five.”

That campaign is ongoing — a template can be found on the “Williams County High 5 to Thrive” Facebook page — but they are also looking to start a new one, called “Brew and Chew.”

Montpelier Mayor Steve Yagelski had what they called a pilot of the program at Drop Tine Winery and Tap House earlier.

Martin said it worked really well.

“So, Amy Miller of the Bryan Area Foundation has plans to roll (out) the same kind of thing at a few restaurants in Bryan,” he said, suggesting the mayors do it in their individual towns, too. “It’s just a matter of a live Zoom event at a restaurant. We would be partaking in whatever the restaurant might provide and invite people to come down.”

Martin said this can be done safely, saying people in Williams County have been able to live relatively normal lives, as long as they wear masks and social distance.

That can also be done in restaurants, where only around 1% of COVID-19 cases originate.

“One of the reasons I opted to do the pilot is I was talking to Corey (Humbarger), the owner, if I could have permission to do it and he said ‘Yes, because I want people to know the protocol we’re doing here,’” Yagelski said. “People are afraid to go to local restaurants because they don’t think they’re following protocols. That’s the whole idea of doing Brew and Chew.”

That way, people can see what restaurants are doing, even if it’s through the computer, to alleviate those fears, he said.

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