Casey Holihan had no other choice. Icy conditions had trapped her and hundreds of other motorists for more than 50 miles from Washington to Richmond, Va., along Interstate 95. With nothing to eat, she and her husband, John Noe, could just stare at the fully-packed Schmidt Baking Company just ahead on I-95.
Enough was enough. Holihan called the customer service number on the back of the truck, and in her best Oliver Twist voice asked if the company would help her out. Within minutes the company’s co-owner Chuck Paterakis called back. “Is it safe enough for you to walk the phone to the truck driver?” he asked.
What Casey and her husband John Noe couldn’t know was that driver, Ron Hill, had also been weeping and praying over what to do.
“I’m a believer,” Hill told Baltimore Magazine. “I was in the back of my truck praying and reading my word yesterday morning. It was overwhelming. I was weeping and didn’t understand why. I was thinking, ‘Should I go in the back of this truck, start handing out bread, and catch the weight later?’ As I was sitting at the steering wheel thinking about it, I saw a lady walk up to the side of my truck.”
Holihan handed him the phone. Give it away, Paterakis told him. But be safe.
So, Holihan, her husband, Ron Hill, and a handful of other volunteers trudged through the snow-covered interstate to hand out bread to stranded and starving drivers.
“Many of the people stuck out there had small children, were elderly, had pets in the car, and hadn’t eaten in almost a whole day,” she told The Daily Mail.
The Bread is Free
Chuck Paterakis was at his office in Baltimore when Casey’s call came through.
“When I heard from Casey, all of these things were going through my mind, but the main thing was that this is our core value,” Paterakis said. “We’re cultured to help out in situations when things are desperate.”
He runs H&S Bakery with his three brothers, and they got their sense of civic duty from their late father, the late John Paterakis, Sr.
“My parents instilled this in us from the day we were born,” Paterakis told Baltimore Magazine. “My father made this business from nothing, but he was very humble. He never bragged. If you asked him why he did all of this, he would say, ‘It’s for my kids.’”
Chuck Paterakis estimates there were 8,000 loaves of bread on that truck. They were able to give away about 500 of them.
Road crews were able to get traffic flowing again after 27 hours. But Holihan says she won’t remember the jam, just the bread.
“It was an interesting little community we created,” she adds. “A couple hours earlier we were all honking and upset with the traffic and the frustration. But then you remember that these are real people. They have lives. We got to talk to some of them and pet their dogs and ask them about where they were going. It was a little pocket of humanity and community that we created on that stretch of I-95 that won’t be forgotten.”