‘Sweetness … not too much toughness’
Corrie Ponikvar’s drive pushes United Way in helping others
Corrie Ponikvar said her daughter had no choice — she was going to college.
“Her father and I were both very, very adamant that Lindsey (Scott) get a college degree,” Ponikvar said. “She went to college. She graduated from Regis (University) with a business degree.
“Summa Cum Laude, I might add.”
Ponikvar, on the other hand, didn’t go to college, a decision that’s had a lasting impact.
“I’ve had to work really hard in my career to get where I’ve gotten because I haven’t had a college degree,” she said.
Today, those years of hard work are evident in Ponikvar’s local position.
The 52-year-old is executive director of United Way of Moffat County, a position she’s held for 14 years. This year alone, her efforts leading the agency helped raise nearly $500,000 in donations for local nonprofit groups.
Ponikvar was born Corrie Quillen in 1958 in Pueblo. Her family moved to Craig when she was little.
“I’ve lived here ever since,” she said.
She attended Sunset Elementary School, Breeze Street Elementary School, Craig Junior High School and Moffat County High School, graduating in 1976.
While in school, Ponikvar said she developed a love for volunteerism.
“From a very early age, I volunteered,” she said. “My parents were very supportive of that. They always believed that you should give back to the community you live in.”
She volunteered at the library and at the public pool.
“It was probably seventh or eighth grade when I volunteered with the Red Cross swimming program,” she said. “When you’re in seventh or eighth grade you can teach them how to bob or do basic things, and keep them from drowning.
“I started out doing that and I continued it all throughout high school.”
At MCHS, she worked for the school newspaper.
“I was an ad rep,” Ponikvar said. “I think the newspaper made money off me, man. I could sell ads to anybody.”
Selling ads offered her a broader exposure to the community and developed interpersonal skills that benefit her to this day.
At 18, a friend introduced Ponikvar to politics. She was heavily involved in the Moffat County Republican Party until last year.
“I don’t know why, I just really caught that bug,” she said. “I’ve never run for office, but I’ve always been interested in helping people who want to serve. I guess I always thought that by being actively involved in the party that somehow I could make a difference in how politics evolved — at least locally.”
During her years of involvement, she served as secretary, treasurer and chairman of the Republican central committee.
After graduating high school, Ponikvar worked some retail jobs, married her first husband, and had her daughter, Lindsey, who today lives in Denver.
Over the years, Ponikvar worked for her father’s construction company, owned a gourmet kitchen store and volunteered on many boards, including the Craig Chamber of Commerce, The Memorial Hospital and, eventually United Way.
Despite her involvement in so many organizations and raising a daughter, she said she never felt pressed for time.
“It’s a priority,” she said of volunteerism. “I just made time to do it.”
Corrie’s first experience as a United Way employee was a brief stint as director in 1983.
“It was a part-time position, but I wanted a full-time job,” she said. “So, I went to work at the assessor’s office and worked there for seven years.”
A decade and a half later, she returned to United Way, where she’s remained since.
“Although I get paid for the job that I do for United Way, I still get a lot of gratification out of making a difference in people’s lives,” she said.
Ponikvar, who remarried in 2007, said the job requires both sweetness and toughness.
“Mostly sweetness…not too much toughness,” she said.
Joel Sheridan, United Way board president, said Ponikvar performs the balancing act well.
“I think she’s very cordial, very cooperative and collaborative,” Sheridan said. “And, I think she keeps focused — that’s what I would call the toughness. She’s nose-to-the-grindstone, focused on the goal and has that drive to make (United Way) a successful organization.”
Aside from striking that balance, Ponikvar said gender doesn’t play a role in her work.
“I don’t think about it that way,” she said.
Ponikvar said perspective might have something to do with her upbringing. She said she was raised without a glass ceiling over her head.
“My parents always encouraged us to do whatever we wanted to do,” she said. “And never, ever made us feel that there were limitations to what we did.”
But, Ponikvar has a message for younger women of Moffat County.
“In this day and age, I think it’s important for girls to get some kind of technical training or a college degree,” she said. “I don’t believe opportunities for good jobs without college degrees exist in this economic climate like they did when I graduated from high school.
“The work environment has changed over the years.”
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UPDATE: The West Fire is now burning 2,403 acres Monday afternoon, after only about 700 acres were burning late Monday morning.