Payback time for dedication, hard work
December 4, 2003
“He is a very fair guy, who helps everybody understand what their assignments are,” says Theys, a course-maintenance volunteer. “This is a year-round job. And (Pownall’s) signature is on every letter and document that goes to every person.”
If you have ever found yourself on a World Cup or World Championship race course in Vail or Beaver Creek, there is a very good possibility that you have run across Dick Pownall.
A Vail Valley resident since 1963, full time since 1985, Pownall’s countless volunteer hours and dedication – not only to the Foundation’s ski-racing efforts, but to numerous other events as well – will be honored tonight with the Ernie Bender Volunteer of the Year Award during the annual Black Diamond Ball.
“I’m not sure that we would be allowed to hold a World Cup race without Dick,” says Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation. “He’s incredibly organized, which probably comes from his days as a school principal, and he’s always looking for ways to improve on every aspect of his operation.
“It’s this dedication to perfection, along with his tremendous commitment to his volunteer crews that make Dick a great asset, not only to the Vail Valley Foundation, but to the entire valley,” she says.
Ironically, it was Pownall who worked with the Vail Valley Foundation to create the Ernie Bender Volunteer of the Year Award in memory of his friend. The award was created in 2000, in honor of the committed Vail Valley Foundation volunteer, who passed away that winter. The inaugural award was presented to Bender’s family in his memory and Pownall will join past recipients Dave Ozawa and Barbara Treat.
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Pownall, 76, and wife Mary began their volunteer careers in 1985 as course crossing guards for the early World Cup races in Vail and have been involved ever since.
“We enjoy it, you spend time with quality people,” says Dick Pownall, who is responsible for over 350 volunteers in Beaver Creek.
Veterans of both the 1989 and 1999 World Alpine Ski Championships, the Pownalls have also taken their show on the road, volunteering in Europe.
“It’s fun to travel and you always meet great people and learn new things that you can bring back home,” Pownall says.
These days, Pownall is on the hill from 6 a.m. to 4 p.m., but his work
goes begins in the summer when he starts mailing registration letters.
“You have to love working with people,” Dick Pownall says. “People who volunteer are positive, happy and enthusiastic.”
Mary Pownall says it would be impossible to put on an event like the World Cup without the volunteers.
“We’d have to pay an extra 200 people and that would be very hard to do,” she says.
“In Europe, they use the military,” Dick Pownall adds.
Pownall says he started volunteering because it seemed the right thing to do.
“We wanted to return something to Vail that has been so good to us,” he says. “Now, it’s payback time.”
Pownall’s commitment to volunteering comes from the precision required from being a mountaineer, Theys says.
Pownall pioneered numerous first ascent routes in the Teton Range and was a member of the first American team to climb Mt. Everest, although he did not summit.
“I had a logistical problem with oxygen,” Pownall remembers. “Still, it was a very successful expedition.”
Climbing mountains, he says, teaches you to really appreciate the good things in life.
For the Pownalls’ longtime friends. Frances and Billy Adam of Scotland, who are also volunteering at Beaver Creek, working with Pownall is very relaxed.
“He knows most of the volunteers by name,” says Billy Adam.
“He’s so dedicated to the organization,” says Frances Adam. “He is “simpatico.'”
In addition to their ski-racing duties, the Pownalls have also lent their expertise to other Foundation events over the years, including the 1994 and 2001 World Mountain Bike Championships and the Artisans’ Golf Classic. The couple was also involved with the Jerry Ford Invitational Golf Tournament.
“Volunteers play an integral role in the success of any event or group and this valley is truly blessed to have such a large and dedicated corps of people like Dick and Mary, who willingly give of their time and expertise to help others,” Folz says.
And Dick Pownall’s volunteerism doesn’t end on the hill. His wife of 25 years, Mary, says he also volunteers at home.
“This summer he built a wood oven and he now cooks pizza there,” she says.
Veronica Whitney can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 454, or at email@example.com.
Volunteers active on World Cup circuit
by Veronica Whitney
Word Count: 272
This is the second year that Frances and Billy Adam traveled from Scotland to volunteer at the Birds of Prey World Cup race course in Beaver Creek.
“We have people who come from the East Coast and from all over the world to volunteer,” says Dick Pownall, the head of the volunteer crew working at the World Cup race course in Beaver Creek.
Some volunteers who come to the valley to work get a ski pass for more than a week so once the event is over they can stay and ski.
“We come to work and see friends,” says Frances Adam, 61, of Falkirk, Scotland.
She and her husband, Billy, are staying with the Pownalls in Vail.
Dick and Mary Pownall also travel abroad to help on the ski circuit. In 1991, they volunteered at Saalbach, Austria; in 1996, at Sierra-Nevada, Spain; and in 1997, at Sestriere, Italy. On the home front, they also volunteered at the 2002 Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City.
“Aside from Dick’s passion for skiing and ski racing, he’s always looking at how other organizers do things and how we might be able to improve on what we do with our events,” says Ceil Folz, president of the Vail Valley Foundation. “I know that Dick and Mary have some wonderful memories from their other volunteer experiences, but I am certain that the Vail Valley has benefited from their travels as well.”
“It’s a great,” Dick Pownall says, “and there’s a lot of positive energy when we are working.”
In addition to the work, fun and meeting people, volunteers get a jacket, a hat and socks.