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River protection group takes home the new "green" Toyota it won in national contest on Facebook
This 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid draws attention at the Rosner Toyota dealership in Spotsylvania County. Toyota presented the vehicle to Friends of the Rappahannock as part of the '100 Cars for Good' program.
REZA MARVASHTI/THE FREE LANCE-STAR
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By RUSTY DENNEN
Friends of the Rappahannock has some new wheels that are quite a step up from the beat-up 1992 Isuzu the river protection group has been using for its programs.
They'll now be tooling around the 2,700-square-mile watershed in a 2012 Toyota Highlander Hybrid, thanks to the automaker's "100 Cars for Good" program. FOR was one of 100 nonprofits around the country to win one of the $40,000 SUVs.
FOR Executive Director John Tippett accepted the keys to the vehicle yesterday in a ceremony at Rosner Toyota on U.S. 1. "I'm so thankful for this and how much it's going to mean for us as an organization and what we're able to do as an organization," Tippett said. "I was driving the old vehicle over this morning. It was donated, and has served us very well. The best thing I could say about it now is that it fits well with the season because of the number of blinking red lights on the dashboard."
Ben Pyle, regional vehicle field sales manager for Toyota, said the 100 Cars For Good program was intended to benefit worthy recipients. "There were a ton of applicants, a lot of really great ones. Only the best got through and got to win this," he said, glancing at the sleek and shiny blue Highlander.
Between May and August, votes were accepted on Toyota's Facebook page. Five finalists were profiled each day, and one winner could choose from among six vehicles to do "good" in the local community.
"One of the things we found out was how many people out there spend their time and their energy working on a lot of things to help individual communities, and to help us all have a better place to be."
Toyota Financial Services also sweetened the deal with a six-year, 100,000-mile extended service warranty.
Clay Huber, vice president of Rosner Toyota, said the dealership found out about the contest on Facebook several months ago. "It was exciting that people voted for a local charity that we're involved with and believe in, as well." FOR, he said, "does a huge amount for natural resources in this area, and we can't thank you guys enough for what you do."
Rosner is a major sponsor of FOR's annual Riverfest fundraiser.
FOR asked its 2,000 members and the community to vote for it to win the Highlander, and Tippett says the result shows how much people here care about the Rappahannock.
FOR's stewardship, conservation and education programs now stretch from the river's headwaters in Rappahannock County to the Chesapeake Bay.
In addition to the old vehicle, FOR also has a 15-passenger van. But it needed something more efficient and useful.
"Our dream car has been something we could use for varied activities from hauling people, to towing heavy trailers, and to drive two hours without breaking the bank," Tippett said.
The V-6 Highlander gets about 28 miles per gallon and has a towing package. That will come in handy for towing FOR's new river steward boat, donated earlier this month by the Rappahannock Rotary Club.
Rusty Dennen: 540/374-5431