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Covered Bridge workers’ benefit tops $32,000 after devastating fire

March 19, 2024
By Jim Dumville, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

During the March 12 council meeting’s opening remarks, emotional Woodstock Coun. Julie Calhoun-Williams thanked the mayor, fellow council members, the Woodstock Wesleyan Church, and the Carleton County community for their compassion, kindness, and support for devastated Covered Bridge chip plant workers.

Calhoun-Williams spearheaded a benefit breakfast on March 9 for the more than 100 displaced chip plant workers following the March 1 blaze that destroyed the plant in Waterville. The Woodstock Wesleyan Church quickly jumped into action to arrange the breakfast.

The event attracted close to 1,000 patrons and raised $32,510.75.

“We had over 40 volunteers. It was just an incredible morning. I’m still emotional about it,” said Calhoun-Williams, whom Mayor Trina Jones asked to update the council and the public about the event.


Jones began the meeting by congratulating Calhoun-Williams and the Woodstock Wesleyan Church and thanking council members for volunteering their time.

“I thought it was a huge success, so congratulations Julie,” she said.

Displaying emotion, Calhoun-Williams explained that about 100 plant workers attended the breakfast.

“Most came at 8:30 and stuck it out until the end because they wanted to stay and visit each other,” she said.

Calhoun-Williams said the workers included 16 foreign support workers who now must return home without completing their contracts.

She explained that some of these workers had come to her for only six months in an effort to raise money to support their families back home.

“They were just such encouraging people,” she said. “They were so positive that day. And they were so thankful for the community coming together.”

Calhoun-Williams said those attending the breakfast donated generously, while others e-transferred donations to an email set up by the Wesleyan Church.

She said the public can still donate through a trust fund established by Covered Bridge Potato Chips at cbrelieffund@gmail.com

Calhoun-Williams said the trust fund plans to divide the money raised equally among all employees who lost their jobs because of the fire. They plan to cut cheques every couple of weeks.

Woodstock Wesleyan Church officials posted updates online and shared the email, then later the trust fund information for those wishing to support the workers.

“We couldn’t have done it without our community partners and donors who stepped up to provide all the supplies needed plus volunteering their time to cook and serve,” the church explained in its post. “A very special thank you to Julie Calhoun-Williams whose vision, compassion, and efficient work made this event a reality.”

The fire ripped through the Covered Bridge Potato Chip plant on the evening of March 1, levelling the structure built in 2009 in hours. Everyone escaped the blaze unharmed.

Located adjacent to the Trans-Canada Highway exit to Hartland, the Covered Bridge Potato Chip plant is a local success story. It employs approximately 185 workers.

With pledged support from all levels of government, company president Ryan Albright committed to rebuilding as soon as possible.

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