Entire Town Calls This WWII Veteran ‘The Candy Man’ After A Very Unusual Mission

Receiving a gift is undoubtedly a thrill, but most of us can agree the feeling you get from giving one is just as satisfying. But while we’re more than willing to open our wallets and spend our hard-earned cash on those we care about, not many can say they’d do the same for a complete stranger.

Well, that’s not the case for one WWII veteran who’s singlehandedly sparked a national movement through simple generosity. After seeing the ways in which he’s brightened up his small community, you’ll be hopping the next flight to Iowa to meet a local hero known to everyone as “The Candy Man”…

Even on our darkest days, an act of compassion can go a long way toward making us feel better. Indeed, a simple kindness is often the best remedy for the blues, and no one knows this better than Bob Williams.

The Quad-City Times

A resident of Long Grove, Iowa, the WWII veteran is known by most for his time as a high school teacher and football coach in nearby Davenport. But even with his reputation as a war hero and educator, Bob has become a legend in his small town of 800 for an entirely different reason.

Every Saturday, the 94-year-old rises bright and early with one very special purpose in mind. Pulling on his signature yellow slicker, Bob begins down the street and heads over to his local Dollar General.

HERSHEYS / YouTube

Bob is a familiar sight as he enters the small discount store, and he greets each employee by name as he shuffles up to the counter. Pulling a crisp 50-dollar bill out of his wallet, the cashier knows exactly what the elderly man is here for: chocolate.

HERSHEYS / YouTube

Handing him two full boxes of jumbo Hershey bars – one with almonds, one without – the cashier smiles as Bob cracks open one of the containers and hands her a full bar. Gifting another to the customer in line behind him, Bob heads back out into the streets of Long Grove, determined to make as many days as he can.

FOX News

Known as “The Candy Man,” Bob Williams has been handing out jumbo Hershey bars to complete strangers in his community for the last 11 years. He was inspired to begin his mission of kindness after reading about a number of “pay it forward” initiatives being promoted across the country.

HERSHEYS / YouTube

Given his lifelong love of chocolate, Bob decided to make his trips to the dollar store worthwhile by sharing his sweets with others. Starting off with purchases of just three bars, Bob would keep one for himself and give the other two away. The responses he got were astonishing.

Alton Boys

“You’d think I’d given them keys to a new car,” Bob said of the reactions to his initial act of kindness. “Honest to God, these people were thunderstruck.” From then on, the veteran knew exactly what his “pay it forward” movement would be.

The Des Moines Register

Over the years, Bob has given out over 6,000 Hershey bars within his community. Though he typically reserves his bars for people that “look like they could use a smile,” strangers aren’t the only ones that can expect a sweet treat from this kind old man.

HERSHEYS / YouTube

Jan Hartwig-Heggen, a close friend of Bob’s, estimates that he’s given her between 200-300 chocolate bars, most of which he leaves at her front door. “That’s his signature,” she said. “You always know when Bob has been there.”

Crittercam / Flickr

Another lucky resident that receives frequent visits from “The Candy Man” is Darla Fay, who Bob jokingly asked to be his Valentine one February before handing her an extra-large Hershey bar. Since then, Bob has visited Darla almost every day, always making sure to have some chocolate saved for her.

“Do you remember as a kid, the excitement and joy you felt when you first saw all the gifts Santa left under the Christmas tree?” asked Darla. “That’s the feeling I get when Bob surprises me with a Hershey bar. It just makes me feel like a kid again.”

Travel with Bender

So, how does the 94-year-old keep up with the demand for his satisfying sweets? By stashing them, of course! Bob is known to keep around 500 chocolate bars in his freezer at a time, and he always makes sure to rotate them out so that he’s gifting only the freshest chocolate.

FOX News

Unsurprisingly, Bob has become something of a celebrity in Long Grove, with nearly everyone knowing his name and his mission. Not a day goes by where cars don’t honk their hellos at him as they pass, and some residents will even approach him to exchange a hug and a smile for a delicious chocolate bar.

HERSHEYS / YouTube

Recently, a local magazine called Our Iowa did a feature on Bob and his remarkable hobby. After reading the article, one of Bob’s neighbors sent it to her son, who worked in Hershey’s corporate strategy department. He presented the story to company executives, and, right then and there, they were hooked.

Inspired by Bob, Hershey began their Heartwarming the World campaign, which sought to spread kindness and compassion nationwide. Taking a page from “The Candy Man’s” book, Hershey encouraged their employees to hand out chocolate bars to strangers, including those recently affected by Hurricane Florence.

HERSHEYS / YouTube

Not only that, but Hershey’s also reached out to Bob directly to make him part of their family. Cutting him a check for $1,500, the company promised to provide Bob with “all the bars he’ll ever need.” Now that’s a kiss! 

With all the recognition Bob has received from his giving, he was able to purchase a nearby park bench to serve as a memorial for his late wife, Mary Elizabeth. Visiting the bench daily, Bob says that it’s really his wife who gives him his instructions to deliver his treats each day.

The Des Moines Register

But beyond it all, Bob’s mission is about more than just handing out Hershey bars to strangers. For “The Candy Man” of Long Grove, he hopes that his one small act of goodwill create an avalanche of kindness for people everywhere.

MSN

“I hope everybody picks up on that,” said Bob. “We need to lighten up and smile a bit more. Share whatever you can with people. There is no charge for that last bit of advice.”

Hersheys

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