Good Neighbors

Grilling For A Cause! Restaurant Owner Feeds Thousands After Powerful Storms Destroy His Town

He didn't hesitate to fire it up and help when disaster struck – now the community is paying him back for his efforts.


I'll admit it. I had no idea what a 'derecho' was until earlier this month, when one ripped through parts of the Midwest, causing mass destruction and power outages.

Turns out, a derecho (pronounced "deh-REY-cho") is essentially a "land hurricane." The swift moving storms usually accompany fast-moving rains showers and thunderstorms, and can cause hurricane-force winds, tornadoes, heavy rains and flash floods.

Iowa was especially hard-hit by the derecho that lasted 14 hours and destroyed thousands of homes, schools and business and caused widespread power outages.

Iowa was hit by a powerful derecho on August 10th, causing major damage all over the state. Sara McGrew

Thankfully, people have been stepping up to help the community, including restaurant owner Willie Fairley who's using his barbecue restaurant, Willie Ray's Q Shack, in Cedar Rapids to feed those in need. He's been serving up 400 plates of food every day since the storm happened, and he doesn't plan on stopping anytime soon.

"It's terrible right now. You got a lot of people still without power," Fairley told CNN. "We're just trying to do what we can as a company to make sure we did our part. Because if it was me home with nothing. I would want someone to at least be able to provide something for me."

video c/o Mercado Media

Fairly has declined over a dozen catering jobs in the past few weeks to focus on helping their neighbors in need.

"Money will come but people are in need right now," Fairley said.

Willie Fairley, who owns Willie Ray's Q Shack, has been giving out hundreds of meals a day since a terrible storm hit his community.Willie Ray's Q Shack

To keep the project going, people in the community have been selling t-shirts and donating to Fairley so that he can continue to cook for those who are struggling. Locals are calling him a hero for acting so selflessly, and there's a push on social media to nominate Willie Ray's Q Shack for the Discover Eat It Forward program, a contest awarding $25,000 to Black-owned restaurants.

A group of volunteers also presented Fairley with a thank you banner signed by those he has helped over the last few weeks.

Residents of Cedar Rapids signed a banner for Fairley to thank him for his efforts to feed the community. Crystal Covington-Wherry

"People are stopping and giving little donations, and you know we're gonna keep giving out food, probably for the next couple months more than likely," Fairley said. "We're just gonna keep taking care of people, doing whatever we can."

Fairley plans to continue feeding the community until his services are no longer needed. @emilymchavez

We love stories of people stepping up in big ways to help others during times of crisis. Willie Fairley is the true definition of a 'hero.' Well done, sir!

How can you start something good?

You can support Willie Ray's Q Shack by donating to his GoFundMe page. You can also contribute via Venmo: @WillieRaysQShack


For other ways to support the people of Iowa, click here.


Let's #StartSomethingGood together!

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