By Peter Vankevich

Recently, the Ocracoke Volunteer Fire Department replaced its 25-plus year old cooker grill with a new one. The cooker has been used primarily for fundraising events and the new one got its first chance on March 6, unfortunately under sad circumstances.

 It was a barbecue dinner fundraiser to benefit the Carteret County families who lost members after a plane carrying eight people, including four East Carteret High School boys, crashed off the state’s coast on Feb. 13.

Fire Chief Albert O’Neal, who knows the families, spearheaded the fundraiser.

“The Down Easters are our friends and family, and we welcomed the opportunity to help them in need, which they have done for us on Ocracoke in the past,” he said. “The waters of Hurricane Dorian hadn’t even completely receded when they showed up with fuel, generators and water.”

Although scheduled to start at 1 p.m., folks started lining up as early as noon. By 1:15 p.m., all 200 plus of the $12 per plate dinners were sold out.

Many of the volunteer firefighters as well as community members helped. The chief and Brandon Jones fired up the grill at 3 a.m. that morning.

“It was a great turnout with both people showing up to help and those getting plates,” O’Neal said. “And the generosity of people was heartwarming. There were lots that didn’t want a plate, they just showed up to make a donation.”

With the many generous donations by those wishing to help the families, the OVFD raised $6,725. The proceeds will be sent to a family fund set up by the Core Sound Waterfowl Museum & Heritage Center created with the approval of all of the Down East families involved.

From left, Chief Albert O’Neal, Jamie Jackson and Brandon Jones checking out the new cooker. Photo courtesy of the OVFD

Point of disclosure: Peter Vankevich is a firefighter for the OVFD.

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