Travelers stranded for more than 24 hours on a highway, during a fast-moving snowstorm, got a much needed helping hand from one long-standing Baltimore bakery. The standstill traffic on an icy stretch of Interstate 95 in Virginia was caused by thousands of storm-related crashes that stalled vehicles across the state and subsequently forced the closure of I-95. Thousands of drivers were trapped in their cars, in freezing weather, for upwards of a full day. It resulted in many families running out of fuel, water, and food.
While emergency crews eventually came to the rescue the following afternoon, one stalled bakery delivery truck came to the rescue of hundreds of hungry passengers in the meantime. A a truck driver for the Baltimore-based Schmidt Baking Company, a member of the Quality Bakers of America and proud distributer of Sunbeam Bread, began distributing bags of baked goods to stranded cars. The move came after one hungry couple spotted the bakery's truck on the road ahead of them and made a call to the company's customer service line.
Upon hearing news of the trapped vehicles, Chuck Paterakis, owner of H&S Bakery (the parent company of Schmidt), got ahold of the truck driver and gave him the go-ahead to distribute loaves of bread and packages of rolls to anyone in need. Driver Ron Hill, along with Holihan, Noe, and other nearby volunteers, quickly got to work distributing the food to drivers trapped along the long stretch of interstate. Needless to say, stranded drivers were relieved to receive food after many hours!
"We were starving," said stranded driver Casey Holihan, adding that she and her husband hadn't eaten for around 37 hours at the time of placing the call to Schmidt Baking Company's service line. "People around us were very much struggling as well. We started going door-to-door and we got to help a lot of people." After spending over an hour distributing hundreds of loaves of bread to other motorists, Holihan was finally able to dig into a bag of rolls, which she described as "the best thing I've ever eaten in my entire life."
For bakery owner Chuck Paterakis — whose father, John, founded parent company H&S Bakery in 1943 and built it into the country's largest privately-owned bakery — the decision to help the stranded drivers was a no-brainer for a company with a long history of giving back.
In 2020 alone, H&S Bakery donated upwards of 1.4 million loaves of bread to local charities, like the Baltimore Hunger Project and Meals on Wheels, in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, the total number of loaves the company has donated since the start of the pandemic has climbed to 3 million.
While Tuesday's spontaneous bread distribution was on a much smaller scale than H&S's past charitable efforts, for the cold and hungry drivers stuck for dozens of hours on the icy interstate, that truckload of donated food was their stomachs' saving grace.
Quality Bakers of America is proud to partner with Schmidt Baking Company — and all our bakeries nationwide — who make a difference in our community!