Community responds to support Covered Bridge Potato Chips workers

by | Mar 5, 2024

Benefit breakfast planned for Saturday, March 8, earning widespread support

In the wake of the devastating fire that destroyed the Covered Bridge Potato Chips plant in Hartland, the Carleton County community quickly stepped forward to support the workers who were left jobless by the tragedy.

Julie Calhoun-Williams, a councillor in neighbouring Woodstock, discovered how quickly her community responds to the needs of others.

In less than 24 hours after the Friday, March 1 blaze, while on a family trip to Quebec, Calhoun-Williams reached out to those she knew in the community with the idea of a benefit breakfast.

The response was fast and positive. Calhoun-Williams’ church, the Woodstock Wesleyan in Jacksonville, agreed to host the benefit breakfast for Covered Bridge employees from 8 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, March 9.

She said donations, volunteers and support poured in quickly from the residents and Carleton County business community.

Calhoun said the Woodstock mayor and council jumped on board immediately, offering time and resources.

“Then it blew up,” she said, as companies and organizations donated products and services — “Best Western. McCain Foods. Crosby molasses. Sobeys, McDonald’s and Tim’s in Woodstock, Sweet Spot. Masonic Lodge. Valley Refrigeration. Stockford Reefer. It goes on.”

Admission to the breakfast is by donation, with 100 per cent going to the Covered Bridge Potato Chips’ workers.

Calhoun-Williams said organizers established a fund for anyone who cannot attend the breakfast but wants to support the workers.

“People can e-transfer coveredbridgechips@woodstockwesleyan.org and 100 per cent of donations through that email will go towards the workers,” she said. “Donations are not eligible for an income tax receipt.”

Provincial government officials, including Premier Blaine Higgs, local MLAs Bill Hogan of Carleton and Margaret Johnson of Carleton-Victoria, and Hartland Mayor Tracey DeMerchant and the council, pledged support for the workers.

Efforts are underway to help ease workers’ efforts to secure available support, including employment insurance.

The fire left approximately 100 workers without employment.

The sign promoting the plant’s tours and gift shop still stands in front of the smouldering debris Saturday morning. (Jim Dumville photo).

The Fire Marshal’s Office is investigating the cause of the fire. Since the fire, business owners the Albright family and CEO Ryan Albright have not spoken publicly about future plans.

Hartland Mayor DeMerchant, Calhoun-Williams, and others praised the Albright family for its dedication to the Carleton County community and pledged support as they make tough decisions in the future.

Since opening the plant in 2009, Covered Bridge Potato Chips has expanded its business globally. In addition to producing the popular potato chips using locally grown russet potatoes, the plant in Waterville, next to the Trans Canada Highway exit to Hartland, has become a well-known tourist draw for the region.

For road conditions, click the map

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