Ethics Hero: H&S Bakery Co-Owner Chuck Paterakis

The inexcusable 1-95 mass traffic jam in Northern Virginia this week produced at least one Ethics Hero, and it sure wasn’t Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam.

Casey Holihan and her husband John Noe, stranded on Interstate 95 along with countless other Virginia motorists, had an inspiration at around hour 16 hours when they spotted a Schmidt Baking Company truck ahead of themon the morning of January 3. The couple were very hungry, for it had been approximately 37 hours since they had any food. So they decided to call Schmidt Baking Company in Baltimore to make a plea for charity and kindness, and to ask if the company would share its bread with the marooned and starving. People had been trapped on I-95 for close to 24 hours, and the couple could hear children crying in other cars. Noe reached the customer service line for the bakery and left their phone number with a representative along with their tale of woe (Fortunately, this was not CVS.)

Chuck Paterakis, one of the owners of H&S Bakery which operates Schmidt Baking Company, called the couple back himself. He told them to go to the truck, and instructed the driver to give a package of rolls and one loaf of bread to anyone in the jam who asked.

Paterakis said later that if he had been stuck out there on the road with no food, he would would want someone to hand out some bread. He knows the Golden Rule!

The truck driver, Ron Hill (that’s him, and the truck, above), Holihan and Noe started distributing bread to the other stranded vehicles, and others joined in the effort. It took about an hour to hand out about 300 packages of bread in the sub-freezing weather.

Holihan and Noe had picked the right bakery truck: since the start of the pandemic pandemic the company has donated close to 3 million loaves of bread to people in need in the Baltimore-Washington area.

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Source: Washington Post

12 thoughts on “Ethics Hero: H&S Bakery Co-Owner Chuck Paterakis

  1. What a great story! I forwarded the link to our son and daughter-in-law, who now live in a suburb of Richmond. If possible, they will support Schmidt Baking.

    Hope still lives!!

    • I saw a conversation about Marxism last night as in the context of a conversation on Christian charity. Someone literally said “shouldn’t we ask how our resources align with the commandments to love God, others & ourselves. Its not far fetched to reason that there are ways to sort out resource allocation based purely on loving.”

      Yes, you can allocate your resources purely on loving. Nothing is stopping you. Just do it.

  2. Not to quibble on minor details here and get legalistic on ethics. But if the truck driver went entirely based on a conversation with someone on a phone that was handed to him and didn’t receive his instructions to surrender company property via an internal company communications method, then he didn’t do due diligence.

    But, in the ethical balance of things, that small lapse is clearly outweighed by dangerous conditions everyone there was facing. The driver very well could have been ethical acting without a prompt from the owner – though it could be a close call.

    • MW- Having limited experience with smaller companies, I would be willing to bet that this driver has met and talked with the owners, and knew that he was talking to “the man”. What if the motorist had just walked up to the truck on his own and suggested that it would be a good thing to share the bread, and the driver agreed…. and they went about it on their own volition.

      Would it have been proper for the owner to sanction the driver (i.e. dock his pay for the loss, or fire him)?

      • The driver very well could have been ethical acting without a prompt from the owner – though it could be a close call.

        As for the owner’s response to an unpermitted act? Tough call, the owner wouldn’t be unethical in firing him. But I don’t think the owner would be ethical in firing him either.

        In the HBO series “Rome” – Titus Pullo is under sentence of death in the arena for murder. His closest friend, Lucius Vorenus, has recently been supported by Julius Caesar as an up and coming local leader. Lucius eventually makes an emotion-laden decision and rescues his friend from the arena in a bloody battle with other gladiators. Vorenus and Pullo are immediately rocketed into fame in the eyes of the Roman people. Caesar’s dilemma, which he states as he cannot punish Vorenus and lose favor with the people NOR can he do nothing and appear weak, his only option (if popularity of the people is a value) is then to reward Vorenus. He promptly promotes him.

        That isn’t necessarily the right call, and HBO dramas aren’t too heavy on ethical pontification, but, presuming the driver’s hypothetical actions were rewarded. The company needs to be expressly clear that the unilateral decision was appropriate within the very strict set of circumstances, lest employees willy-nilly begin determining all manner of scenario as worthy of giving away company property.

      • “Having limited experience with smaller companies, I would be willing to bet that this driver has met and talked with the owners, and knew that he was talking to “the man”.”

        Quite probably. But, I’d be wary of any communications on phone a phone that isn’t mine or the company’s – which aren’t 100% faithful in accurately carrying voices.

        What mitigates things here, is that it is probably unreasonable to assume that a couple handing me a phone saying it’s my boss, has engaged in an elaborate scam to get…. bread … to hundreds of people stranded in a life or death situation.

        I’d be a bit more skeptical in another situation.

        As I mentioned in my original post – this is potentially an ethics lapse on the part of the driver – but a small one given all the other values and circumstances in this calculation.

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