This Bread Company Handed Out Loaves To Stranded I-95 Drivers

Desperate holiday travelers stranded for 24 hours in an unexpected highway snarl earlier this week got a much needed helping hand from one long-standing Baltimore bakery. The standstill traffic, which began the evening of Monday, January 3 on an icy stretch of Interstate 95 in Virginia, was caused by thousands of snowstorm-related crashes that stalled vehicles across the state and subsequently forced the closure of I-95 (via The New York Times), trapping thousands of drivers in their cars 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 of those stranded on the following Tuesday afternoon, one stalled bakery delivery truck came to the rescue of hundreds of hungry passengers in the meantime. According to The Washington Post, a truck driver for the Baltimore-based Schmidt Baking Company began distributing bags of baked goods to stranded cars 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 — as well as the couple who called the service line, Casey Holihan and John Noe — and gave the driver 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.

Stranded drivers were relieved to receive food after many hours

"We were starving," stranded driver Casey Holihan told The Post, 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 potato rolls, which she described as "the best thing I've ever eaten in my entire life" to The Baltimore Sun

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 (via Baltimore Magazine) — the decision to help the stranded drivers was a no-brainer for a company with a history of giving back. 

According to Baking Business, in 2020, 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.