The generosity of the coal companies that have operated in Estevan, and the employees who work for the mines, is well documented.
The members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) Local 7606 and the other employees at the mines are big supporters of life in the Estevan area.
The companies have changed over the years, but they’ve always been there for the community. Westmoreland Mining LLC, who purchased the Estevan area mine sites in 2014, have continued that tradition.
The United Way Estevan and its annual telethon have long been among the biggest beneficiaries.
Over the last five years, the total contribution from UMWA Local 7606 and Westmoreland is $379,557.89. Employees donate to the United Way Estevan through voluntary payroll deductions and other initiatives; the company then provides a matching grant.
In each of the last three years, the contribution has exceeded $80,000.
Danny Ewen, who is the president of the United Way Estevan for 2021, said it can’t be understated how crucial the mines are to the success of the United Way, the telethon and the member agencies.
“What has become a common thing to see at telethon is Saturday afternoon … when we get both the Westmoreland Mining company as well as SaskPower presenting their cheques,” said Ewen.
SaskPower is the only donor to surpass the mines and its employees each year. Some years Westmoreland and UMWA present first; other years SaskPower and its employees have the honours. In many years, one of those donations will push the United Way past its fundraising goal.
“The numbers that they provide to us every single year knock our socks off and blow us away.”
There is a sense of relief when the mines come in with their donation each year and push the United Way close to their goal or above the objective, and Ewen looks forward to when the mines visit the telethon, which will be Oct. 15 and 16 this year.
“Watching from a board member’s perspective over the past several years, you always notice the president with a 10-pound weight or possibly a 50-pound weight going off their shoulders when it gets around 2 o’clock on Saturday (afternoon) because the mines come in and there’s a big cheque associated with it, and when we’re trying to reach our goal every single year, it’s usually resulting in a big sigh of relief,” said Ewen.
The United Way telethon is a big community event and every single donation counts, but the mine employees and Westmoreland make a big difference.
The employees and the management of Westmoreland Mining LLC are members of the community, Ewen said. They work here, they live here, they spend money here and they enjoy activities. Some of them have undoubtedly accessed the services of at least one member agency, whether it’s themselves or their families.
“The people who work at the mines are people who are affected by the United Way and our telethon, so I think everyone recognizes, and I think it’s probably a no-brainer for almost 100 per cent of employees who decide to take off some money from their paycheques to give to the telethon because they understand the importance of the United Way in Estevan and how we support the community.”
Ewen has seen other examples of the mines’ generosity in Estevan. They support a number of different non-profits in town, and the mines employees support and volunteer with a variety of causes.