After a powerful derecho storm with hurricane-forced winds caused severe damage to Cedar Rapids, Iowa, many area residents lost power for days.
Local business owner Willie Ray Fairley didn’t have power at his restaurant, Willie Ray’s Q Shack, either. Yet as he watched his neighbors work tirelessly to remove fallen trees and recover their belongings, he thought of a way that he could help.
“I just got my food truck and was ready to start selling, but once the storm hit I thought there might be something better to do with the food,” he told KCRG.
Willie emptied out his freezer at the restaurant and fired up the food truck, cooking up huge batches of mouth-watering ribs, fried chicken, and other comfort foods. He then gave away hundreds of meals, asking for not a single cent in return.
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It didn’t take long before news of Willie’s kindness spread throughout the community. Soon there was a line of people in his parking lot, all looking for a warm meal in the midst of uncertainty and exhaustion.
“We don’t have a gas grill and charcoal was hard to come by,” local resident Eric Knox explained. “It was just nice to have a meal.”
Grateful neighbors started to donate money to keep the good food coming. They also flocked to social media to praise Willie for working so hard to keep his community fed. A group of locals even nominated him for a Discover Card giveaway specifically for Black restaurant owners.
Willie says he has no intention of stopping his charitable giving anytime soon. Even though the storm is over, he’s resolved to keep cooking and giving away food, noting that it gives him a lot of joy to see people appreciating his food.
“I wish I could put my shoes on and everybody could wear them and know how it feels on the inside,” he said. “People keep donating, so we’re going to be giving out food for a long time. Even when the storm is over, cleaned up. If there’s still funds left we will continue to give.”
Willie says he found a way to help his neighbors simply because “it was just how I was raised.” He just wasn’t content to sit by and watch his community struggle. We should all take a page from Willie’s book and look at every hardship as an opportunity to help others.
Share this story to thank Willie for feeding his neighbors during a difficult time.
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