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Two who really stuck to it: Pair of Wrigley employees celebrate 40 years with company
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Beverly Stevens, administrative assistant, talks about what she has enjoyed most in the 40 years she has worked at Wrigley. Stevens started at the factory in August of 1976 as a temp. - photo by Erin O. Smith

When Janice Bryans leaves work at the Wrigley factory in the late evenings, she often sees a family of deer grazing on the lawn.

“They’re peaceful and they’re quiet,” she said. “And I think to myself, ‘Even they love it here.’”

Bryans and her coworker Beverly Stevens are two of 14 employees that have reached their 40-year anniversary with the Wrigley factory in Hall County.

Bryans and Stevens have seen a number of changes in their more than 40 years with the factory, and they each have advice for young people today about finding joy in the workplace.

Stevens is the administrative assistant to Jim Fitzgerald, Wrigley factory director. She started with the factory in August 1976 as a temp.

“I had a previous office job when one of the ladies working here was leaving because she was expecting,” Stevens said. “She asked me if I would be interested in working at Wrigley’s. I came for six months to see if I liked it and if it worked out for the company, and at six months they said, ‘You’re hired.’”

Though she’s stayed in the same office all 40 years, Stevens’ tasks changed drastically. She started “working the switchboard” and using a manual typewriter.

“In the past we had what was called office services,” she explained. “It was about six people and we did all the office work, plus working for the factory manager. As technology approached us, we got computers and didn’t do dictation and all that, so I just worked in the office. I love my job, so I didn’t want to move anywhere else.”

Bryans, meanwhile, has spent the last 40 years in manufacturing.

“I started December 2, 1971,” she said. “Actually, my father got a job here. He was one of the original people from Gainesville that went to Chicago to train. I was thinking, ‘This might open up a lot of things for me, and I might enjoy it.’ So through his excitement, it spilled over onto me, and I decided to put an application in.”

She started in the manufacturing department, which is now called processing, working on a gum “sheeting machine.”

From there, she was offered an office position within the factory and today she is the shift lead on the second shift in “gum recovery,” which recovers gum that is imperfect.

“And there have I stayed,” she said. “I haven’t ventured out into any other part of the factory. I’ve been a manufacturing person the whole time, and I’ve been very happy.”

Bryans saw major technological changes in her 40 years with Wrigley as well. She used to write her data down daily on a piece of paper, before computers entered the factory.

“To be perfectly honest with you, I said, ‘I will never learn this. I’m never going to be savvy on a computer,’” she said. “But I am, because I was given the training and the means to perform the job. And I feel very accomplished knowing I said first off, ‘I’ll never do this,’ and I did.”

Currently, Wrigley has more than 80 job openings, and Fitzgerald said he hopes new applicants will feel the dedication and excitement of long-term employees like Stevens and Bryans.

“I’ve worked in a number of different plants over the years, and this is by far the best group of associates that I’ve ever worked with,” he said. “I think both Janice and Beverly are great examples of long-term associates that have deep roots in the community. There’s a culture here that’s really unique, and it’s a privilege to have had the opportunity to work with them.”

Bryans said she takes a great deal of pride in her work and in the working relationships she has with her coworkers. Stevens described the factory as “engaging.”

“I really enjoy seeing people grow and develop, and knowing you can coach them and see that twinkle in their eye, that they understand what you’re talking about,” she said.

Bryans and Stevens said their advice to young people today is to be willing and eager to learn from others.

“Learn all you can,” Bryans said. “Come with a positive attitude and a desire to learn everything that you can. That’s the main thing.”

“Be open minded and know your job can take you many places, if you’ll just work hard,” Stevens said. “It’s up to you. You’re responsible for where you go.”

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