Twenty-five years of living in the Vail Valley haven’t dampened Susan Frampton’s soft Southern drawl, courtesy of a South Carolina upbringing.
She might not sound like a local, but Frampton has become an integral part of the valley community since moving here in 1982, when her husband, Harry, was named president of Vail Associates. The 63-year-old has made a full-time job of volunteering for various local causes, work that has earned her the Vail Valley Foundation’s 2007 Ernie Bender Award for Volunteer of the Year.
“It’s something that I felt, like you should always give back to the community in which you live,” says Frampton, who says she was surprised when she learned of the honor.
Frampton does a “tremendous” amount for the foundation, says Arte Davies, social events director.
“She volunteers for all the events that we do, and there’s nothing like experience,” says Davies, who has known Frampton for about 10 years. “She’s always ready to jump in and do something if somebody needs it.”
Frampton, who Davies calls “a fabulous Southern lady,” uses her experience to lead others “in her soft, subtle Southern way,” Davies says. She’s the eighth recipient of the Volunteer of the Year award, which honors Ernie Bender, a longtime race crew volunteer who passed away in 2000.
Though Frampton doesn’t keep track of the hours she donates, it is, she says, “a few.” Her volunteer resume includes work on each of the foundation’s World Forums; 23 of its 25 American Ski Classics; social chair of the 1989 and 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships; tutoring at Red Sandstone Elementary School; board positions for the Vail Art in Public Places Committee, Vail Mountain School and the Family Learning Center; and chairman of the Resource Center of Eagle County.
“I like to keep busy,” she says.
Frampton fondly remembers entertaining World Forum participants at her Vail Village home and coordinating multiple parties as social chair for the alpine championships. But it’s her seven-year leadership of the Resource Center, an organization that helps victims of domestic violence, that she feels has proven among the most rewarding.
“It transforms people’s lives, her efforts in the community,” says Narda Reigel, executive program director for the Resource Center. “Her dedication to the cause is remarkable ” and her compassion for people in need, and her willingness to find resources.”
Frampton’s compassion, Reigel says, is written on her face when she encounters someone in trouble.
“It’s just her gentle demeanor,” Reigel says. “When people are in crisis, they need a safe place to be. She’s just a safe place.”
Women’s issues are a priority for Frampton.
“Domestic violence is not a pretty picture,” Frampton says. “People don’t think it goes on around here, but it does.”
The former third-grade teacher has also focused her energy on helping children. Teaching is in Frampton’s blood: Her mother taught school at age 18 before becoming a homemaker. Though her parents didn’t have the opportunity to give back to the community to the extent that she has, Frampton says, her mother was a Brownie leader and her father, a produce broker, “was always so good to people.”
Frampton began volunteering at her son and daughter’s school while living in Virginia, an effort she continues though her children are now grown and married and she has two young granddaughters. At Red Sandstone Elementary, she sometimes works with children who are having trouble reading and writing, often Hispanic students who don’t speak much English.
“I learn a little bit of Spanish, and they learn a little bit of English,” Frampton says. To watch the children progress with the language throughout the school year, she says, “is so rewarding.”
Donna King, a second-grade teacher at the school, says Frampton has a knack for helping students of all skill levels by bringing her cultural experiences into the classroom.
“She’s just very natural with children,” King says. “I wish we had a dozen Susan Framptons.”
And the students?
“They love her,” King says.
The beneficiaries of Frampton’s volunteer work aren’t the only ones whose lives are improved by her efforts, however.
“I’ve learned a lot from it,” Frampton says. “I just want to keep learning and doing different things.”
Though she still misses stepping outside barefoot on warm summer nights in the South, the valley has become Frampton’s home. Given all that she’s done for the community, she’s encouraged to see what others are doing.
“I’m always amazed how generous everybody is,” she says. “I hope that continues.”