“I feel like I did something today – something meaningful,” an exhausted Dan Ferguson said last night after his last customers were served. Ferguson gave 100% of the sales from his Durham restaurant, The Original Q Shack, on January 2, 2013 to the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI).
“I realized that the tragedy in Newtown, CT could happen anywhere, and that part of the problem is access,” he said referring to mental health resources. Ferguson wanted to do his part by giving a community known for its willingness to step up and contribute a way to do so. “The day of the shooting I just started looking for ways to help. I found NAMI and realized that they were doing good work that I wanted to support,” Ferguson added.
Durham has a long history of community action, and that spirit mobilized on Wednesday with customers lined up, and other Durham restaurateurs coming in to help and show their support, too. Tommy Bullock, of famed Durham landmark Bullock’s BBQ showed up with his son Ty to offer to help Ferguson and his crew serve customers. “I think what Dan is doing is terrific, and I wanted to come tell him in person,” Bullock said. Other restaurants came out to help, too. Employees from Durham Catering Company, Only Burger, and Rise Biscuits and Donuts were on site to help throughout the day, all giving their time to lend a hand.
Ferguson estimates 750 to 800 people came through the door. The guests, and the money they spent, stand as a testament to Durham’s character. The effort resulted in a significant donation to NAMI - $9,528.72 from restaurant sales and direct donations made at the restaurant during the day. Ferguson made up the difference to bring the number up to $10,000 even, but that number does not reflect the thousands more that Ferguson spent to make the event possible. Those additional dollars reflect the cost of food, staff, sales tax, and more. Ferguson is simply covering those expenses himself. “This was the right thing to do, and I’m so glad I could do it,” he added.
“As an all-volunteer organization of Durham citizens, we of NAMI Durham are excited by the success of the largest single fundraising and outreach event in our history. We thank Dan Ferguson, owner of The Original Q Shack, for his generosity, which will expand our ability to offer programs of education, support, and advocacy addressing issues of mental illness. This event also raised awareness in our community of the importance of early intervention and treatment in preventing mental health crises," said Dorothy Smith of NAMI's Durham office. NAMI had an information table setup in the restaurant and shared information with patrons throughout the day. For many it was their first exposure to the organization.
In preparation for the event on Wednesday morning, as he was arranging tables and chairs in his restaurant’s dining room, Ferguson said he had prepared enough food for 1,000, “But how much do you make when you are essentially giving it all away? I've never had to try and figure that out before,” he said, smiling and looking forward to a busy day.
The Original Q Shack (not to be confused with other similarly named businesses with which Ferguson used to be associated) is located at 2510 University Drive in Durham’s Rockwood District. Opened in 2003, the restaurant is now a landmark for BBQ in North Carolina. Ferguson, a Texas native, is the sole proprietor, attended the Culinary Institute of America in NY, and is a veteran of some of Durham’s best known restaurants.
With a local office in Durham, NAMI is the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI advocates for access to services, treatment, supports and research and is steadfast in its commitment to raise awareness and build a community for hope for all of those in need.