In a moment of desperate need, a baking company stepped up to feed motorists stuck on a 50-mile stretch of Interstate 95 in Virginia due to a winter storm.
The massive storm had hit multiple states and left more than 300,000 people without power in Virginia and Maryland.
Maryland couple Casey Holihan and John Noe were driving from Ellicott City, Maryland, to visit John’s family in Newport, North Carolina. They wanted to say goodbye to them before John was deployed with the U.S. Air Force to Germany.
Their journey was only supposed to be five hours long, but it stretched to a 36-hour nightmare when they got stranded in an icy traffic jam on the way.
The couple had not moved for almost 21 hours in the southbound lane of the interstate due to a combination of heavy snowfall, jack-knifed tractor-trailers, and four inches of ice that prevented rescue vehicles from clearing the road.
Thousands of people spent the night in their cars in temperatures that had dropped into the 20s. Many of them had small children, elderly, and pets, and they all hadn’t eaten or drank water for almost a whole day.
“It was definitely a very scary situation and we had no idea how long we would be there for,” John told WBAL.
The couple had not eaten for around 37 hours when they noticed a Schmidt Baking Company truck stuck just ahead of them on Tuesday morning. The couple longingly stared for hours at the pictures of bread printed on its rear doors, wondering when their growling stomachs would be satisfied.
Hungry and frustrated, Casey and John decided to call the company’s customer service line to ask if it would be possible for the truck driver to distribute some loaves of bread to them and other stranded passengers.
They didn’t expect to hear anything back, but 20 minutes later, they received a personal call from one of the owners of H&S Bakery, which owns Schmidt Baking Company.
Chuck Paterakis told Casey that he had directed the truck’s driver, Ron Hill, to open up the back and distribute loaves of bread and rolls to the hungry motorists.
Ron and the couple got out of their vehicles to help pass out about 300 packages of much-needed food to around 50 nearby cars in a span of an hour.
“We just kept giving it out until we couldn’t walk anymore because it was so freezing,” Casey said. “It felt incredible just hearing people say thank you and hearing people just so relieved to finally have food in their car, food in their system and in their kids’ system. It was a really incredible feeling.”
Casey and John were so hungry that they finished an entire bag of potato rolls. Casey said it was the “best thing” she had eaten in her entire life.
To Chuck, giving out the contents of their truck was an “easy decision.”
“I’m so pleased that the people who were hungry, that hadn’t eaten for the past 24 hours, had a chance, even if it was bread, had the chance to fill their stomachs up. It was very gratifying to me. It was something I will always remember,” he said.
Casey thanked Schmidt Baking Company for their “humanity and compassion” in a Facebook post.
“This was one of the kindest moments I have ever witnessed. Thank you Schmidt,” she wrote.
The distribution of the bread made their dire circumstances more bearable.
“The company definitely could have made a profit off the bread but instead chose to help the people around them,” Casey said of Schmidt Baking Company. “That is just so incredible that someone chose humanity over profit, especially in a situation that people were so desperate.”
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