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2022 JEFFERSON AWARDS | Rick Willows - The Gatherer

Rick Willows is "Multiplying Good" by bringing people together through BBQ.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — All over our area, there are people who are not just doing good - but "Multiplying Good."

Every year, we honor them with the Jefferson Awards - a nationwide foundation that celebrates amazing acts of public service. 2022 is WQAD News 8's 8th season of being a Jefferson Awards Media Partner, sponsored locally by Genesis Health System and Tyson Foods.

From Feb. 1 through March 22, News 8's Angie Sharp is introducing you to this year's nominees. To see all of our Jefferson Awards Nominees, past and present, click here.

2022 Jefferson Awards: Rick Willows

When many restaurants were down during the COVID-19 pandemic, Smokin' Butt BBQ was fired up... literally. For more than a decade, its owner - Rick Willows - has made it his mission to gather people together and make good barbecue... with a generous side of giving. 

"It's been a big part of our business since day one," he said. "Food with a purpose, right?"

That's exactly right. Every week, Willows estimates he and his team are cooking up something for the community... from catering fundraisers for children with cancer to helping youth groups go on mission trips or making their famous barbecue chili for Hand in Hand's Annual Chili Cook-Off.

"It's not something that we look for awards and those kind of things for," he explained. "Hopefully, when we do these things, we encourage other people throughout the community to do these kinds of things. As I get older and can't do as much, I look and see who's going to be our next people out there to help in the community because there's so much need out there."

Sometimes that need did not involve BBQ at all. During the COVID-19 Pandemic, Willows organized a diapers/wipes and food donation drive with our local chapter of the Knights of Columbus. 

"We don't sit down and have goals every year for what we're going to do, because there's something new that comes around all the time," he said. "We're trying to be connected to community so that we understand what's going on and what needs to be done."

Willows described his business as just average people doing average things, but he - and his BBQ - are anything but. He is "Multiplying Good" through his selfless acts of public service - which is why WQAD is honored to recognize him as one of our 2022 Jefferson Awards Nominees.

To see his entire interview with News 8's Angie Sharp, watch the video below.

Watch all of the nominee's stories on News 8's YouTube channel

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