In the early weeks and months of the pandemic, there were a lot of questions being asked. One of them was how would you have an event like the United Way Estevan’s telethon when there was so much unpredictability.
Crowd restrictions, school participation, live performances and overall economic uncertainty were among the factors that had to be dealt with.
Well, we had our questions answered on the weekend. And well it wasn’t the telethon that we’re used to seeing each year since 1977, the end result was still the same: the community came together.
Sure, you didn’t have the audience sitting in the hall to watch the event. There was a six-performer limit for the live entertainment.
We’re used to seeing large crowds during the morning and afternoon of the first day for the school students and the Drewitz School of Dance. That obviously couldn’t happen.
We’ve become used to seeing students from the Estevan Comprehensive School taking over the telethon during the overnight hours, giving the kids another taste of why Estevan is such a great community.
And we’re used to seeing large choirs on the stage or the floor of the legion, showcasing their singing abilities.
Thankfully, we live in an age in which people can record a video and send it in to be aired. Many of those who have sent videos have had plenty of practice in the past few months.
It’s one of the upshots of living in an era in which almost everyone has a good recording device at their disposal thanks to the advancements in cell phone technology.
And while it wasn’t quite the same as having great live music in front of a live hall, the music was still great.
But even in the tough times, the community support is still there.
In a normal year, the $320,000 goal might have seemed low. After all, the telethon typically raises more than $350,000 for member agencies and community impact projects.
But this isn’t a normal year, and the $320,000 goal seemed rather ambitious back in the spring, when it was established, and many businesses were still closed.
As mentioned earlier, entertainers stepped up. So did the talented crafters who created the items that were available through the silent auction, which had an online component for the first time. Eighty-one great items were available this year.
Small business people were there for the telethon, too.
Donations were read off on-air throughout the telethon. And on so many occasions, at least one small business owner would be mentioned for donating money, even though those businesses don’t have as much money as they did a year ago.
Small business owners and employees worked cameras, answered phones, served as hosts and volunteered behind the scenes.
You didn’t see Amazon or Facebook stepping forward with support like this.
But hey, stepping up to support the community, even during these tough times, is what you expect from small businesses.
We also saw the donations from larger corporations, such as SaskPower (more than $112,000) and Westmoreland Mining LLC (more than $80,000). You want proof of the value of coal-fired power generation in the Estevan area? This is it.
The employees of the companies raised the money from payroll deductions and other efforts. The corporations then matched the money raised.
And our community will be better because of them.
As Units 4 and 5 at Boundary Dam come offline in the next few years, the telethon, and all the people who benefit from the telethon, will take a hit as well.
The United Way’s Telethon has been a big part of our region for more than four decades. People know that when they give to the United Way, that the money is then going to be turned over to the member agencies and community impact projects to benefit the people of the community.
The money isn’t going to postage, or to cover wages in Regina and Saskatoon.
And so even though the telethon looked different this year, that’s why people were still willing to give to the United Way once aagain.