Polo, fondue and a good stomp

SCENE & HEARD

September 17, 2006|By SLOANE BROWN

The sun was out, as was the sumptuous luncheon buffet at the Maryland Polo Club field in Monkton. Under a bright yellow tent, a tiered fountain bubbled with chocolate. The sounds of laughs and light conversation mingled with the thundering of horses' hooves, and the clicking of mallets on polo balls.

It all made for a perfect "Afternoon of Polo," the annual fundraiser for the Abilities Network / Epilepsy Foundation of the Chesapeake Region. Except this year, there weren't quite as many people on the sidelines as in the past. The little wireless TV set up on one table (by an anonymous guest) helped solve the mystery. The Baltimore Ravens' season opener had kept quite a few folks glued to their televisions at home, event chair Paul Obrecht III surmised.

That made event organizers even more grateful to those who did attend.

"It's really wonderful to be with my friends here, to know they support us," said board member Natalie Gilmore, who knows the organization's value firsthand. Her 5-year-old daughter, Lili, has a rare form of epilepsy.

Board chair David Paulson had an additional explanation. "Where else can you watch a polo game, dip fruit in chocolate, and bid on diamonds all at the same time?"

And, at what other sporting event are the fans encouraged to go out on the field at half-time, as many here did in the time-honored tradition of "divot stomping?"

"This is great," 7-year-old Ian Moore announced to all assembled. "I like to help people raise money."

A DRINK WITH BILL EWING

Bill Ewing became a volunteer with the Maryland Food Bank when it started in 1979. Soon, he was a paid employee, and in 1986, he became the food bank's executive director. Ewing, 63, plans to retire in the next year or so, after the food bank board finds his successor. He lives in Baltimore County with his wife, Lynn Lockwood, who recently retired as associate director of the Baltimore County Library. They have three children.

Your family has a long history here.

There was a book written about my family trading with the Indians in the mid-1800s. That's where my grandfather, George Washington Ewing, got his money, which he [wasted].

And you've never left the Baltimore area?

No. I didn't know I was allowed to. When my son moved to California [a few years ago], I was surprised when he didn't come back. I thought everyone came back. ... It's a comfortable place. I thought I'd become a banker or a stock broker here. But, I got lucky in the 1970s, when I got into food banking, which became a passion.

Why?

Because it fit with everything else [for me]. It had things I liked in other jobs. It was competitive. It required risk taking. It was entrepreneurial. And it involved helping people.

Twenty-seven years later, is that passion still there?

Yes. Every day I drive into work and I see a tractor trailer there and you don't know what it is. It's just like Christmas. We're sort of in the middle of the people who want to do good and have stuff, and the people who want to do good who need stuff. I get to be the good guy every day. ... I can't imagine another job. When I get a paycheck, it still surprises me. If I could afford it, I'd still be a volunteer. ... I work incredibly long hours. Not just because I need to do it. I love to do it.

But now you're planning to leave. What's next?

I have no idea. I won't know until I leave. There isn't room in my brain for both what I'm going to do tomorrow and what I'm going to do next year. ... I'm excited about spending time with my wife. I've got a grandchild coming and I'm looking forward to that.

Do you have hobbies?

I play tennis. I love competitive things. I play basketball. ... What I can't do is [find time to] read. And I really, truly miss that. I need to be able to segment time, and I'm too easily distracted. And Google is sitting there, calling me, saying "Bi-ill, let me help you find some more food." ... When I'm on vacation, I read a book a day.

Do you worry that you'll go through "food bank withdrawal" when you retire?

No, not at all. I've got a lot of pent-up stuff [to do]. ... I think I'm the only person who hasn't read The Da Vinci Code. ... I feel like one of those 16-year-olds in spring.

CALENDAR

SUNDAY

THE CONCORSO ITALIA DE ANNAPOLIS

Benefits The Children's Guild

Beer, wine, hors d'oeuvres, view photography exhibit inside and collection of luxury European cars outside

Phillips Seafood Restaurant, 12 Dock St., Annapolis

1 p.m., Tickets $60 at door

Call 410-444-3800, ext. 114

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