An Iowa restaurant owner is flaming up his grill to supply hundreds of free meals for his community after thousands fell victim to a line of devastating storms last week.
A powerful derecho (pronounced similar to “deh-REY-cho”) tore through the Midwest last August 17, damaging houses and leaving millions without electricity throughout Iowa and Illinois. A derecho is a widespread, long-lived windstorm associated with a band of rapidly moving showers or thunderstorms.
As the community struggles to return to normal, Willie Fairley, a barbeque restaurant owner is using his grill at Willie Ray’s Q Shack to provide his neighbors with at least 400 meals every day, free of charge.
“It’s terrible right now. You got a lot of people still without power,” Fairley said in a CNN report. “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 to be able to provide something for me.”
Cedar Rapids Fire Chief Greg Smith said that the city of Cedar Rapids faced the most storm damage, with more than 800 commercial and residential buildings suffering a full or partial collapse of the roof, walls, ceiling, or floors. According to the police department, around 50 people were hospitalized with storm-related injuries around Cedar Rapids.
The goal of providing for those in need is exactly what Fairley has been able to achieve. The restaurant has provided at least a thousand free grilled meals to the community, including ribs, chicken, burgers, and hot dogs. The restaurant has been offered at least 15 catering jobs, but the business declined.
“Money will come but people are in need right now,” Fairley said. “The main reason we’re doing it free is because there’s been a lot of people donate to us to help us keep feeding people. So, we figure we’ll just do it to make sure everybody gets something.”
The restaurant owner has become a local hero, with many celebrating the grill master’s efforts on social media. Several have even made posts nominating Willie Ray’s Q Shack for the Discover Eat It Forward program, a contest awarding $25,000 to Black-owned restaurants.