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50 for 50: Cedar Rapids sponsors, Willie Ray’s Q Shack give away free meals

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa (KWWL) -- Seven cars were lined up waiting for Willie Ray's Q Shack to open this morning and long lines wrapped around the shack for its first two hours of business today. It was supposed to celebrate the man whom Fortune named 16th on its World's 50 Greatest Leaders by giving away 50 free meals to the community.

The first 50 meals were paid by local social media celebrity Joe Sample, Brandon Godwin and Cedar Rapids Bank and Trust, which later added another 50 meals to its sponsorship.

But, Fairley wasn't having any of the accolades. And true to his style, he matched their 50 free meals. Just nineteen minutes after opening, Fairley had given away 51 free meals and by noon, he had given away 113 meals.

"When I was growing up, we had gardens and I used to have to go pick stuff up at the garden and give it away and I used to want to sell it. But, my dad was like, 'Nah, nah, we're not going to sell it."

As Fairley grew up, he saw people coming back to give back to his father but he didn't understand until he was older.

"And I couldn't wait to get a position to be able to do the same thing and hey, we're here," Fairley said.

That spirit of giving attracted others like him.

Some customers came to donate more meals to others.

"It's been a really tough year," Christin Maiers said. 'And this is just awesome that somebody so good is getting what they deserve and he really does deserve all the recognition and all of the support."

Diana and Joshua Sankey gave back to the community by adopting six children out of foster care. Their meals for a family of 10 were paid for today.

"Thank you so much to Willie and to the bank for blessing our family. It's not something we take for granted," Diana Sankey said.

Today, Fairley's giving turned into a community giving back to him in their support.

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