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By Peter Vankevich
Mike Toler just wants to help Ocracoke and he did so in a big way when he and his wife Cindy recently donated $5,000 to the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department.
Longtime supporters of the OVFD’s Firemen’s Ball held on Memorial Day weekend and which raises an average of more than $70,000 each year, Mike was concerned because that popular event did not happen this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Several years ago, Larry Ihle asked me to help sponsor the Firemen’s ball,” he said. “I agreed and got a couple of sponsor T-shirts.”
Toler would wear them around the island and locals would see him wearing them and express thanks.
“After the third or fourth time this happened, I realized that this was a very big deal,” Toler said.
When Dorian hit on Sept. 6, 2019, Toler helped send supplies to Ocracoke.
“I was amazed at what the fire department was doing serving as a hub,” he said. “I knew then how important a rural fire department is to the community.”
There were no fundraisers after Dorian.
“And then there was the pandemic,” he said. “Fortunately, my business was able to bounce back quickly after the pandemic. I have made a promise to myself that I would help out as much as I could.”
The Tolers are no strangers to Ocracoke. Residing in Morehead City, they honeymooned on the island back in 1982 and have owned a house here for five years.
Over the years, the couple has been generous donors to the island’s nonprofits, especially the foot races now known as Ocracoke Runfest–Blackbeard’s Half Marathon and Scallywag 5K/10K, in which both have run. This year, the Runfest will be virtual starting Nov. 14.
So, it was more than a pleasant surprise when Toler, owner of the eponymous Mike Toler Chrysler Dodge Jeep Ram FIAT, Inc. in Morehead City, contacted the OVFD to say he wanted to make a donation–to the tune of $5,000.
Not having this “kick-off to summer event” his year has brought challenges to the department’s finances
Those wishing to donate can send checks to the Ocracoke Fire Protection Association (OFPA) and mail it to OFPA, P.O. Box 332, Ocracoke, NC 27960.
To contact the OVFD, 252-928-4692 and OcracokeVFD@gmail.com.
Point of disclosure: Peter Vankevich is an Ocracoke volunteer firefighter.