ESTEVAN - Estevan has many great opportunities for growth, development, entertainment, healthcare, education and inclusive living, and a huge part of what the community has and enjoys becomes possible only through the efforts of selfless residents who donate their time, skills, talents and energy to make it better for everyone.
While it is in people's nature to give, not everyone becomes a volunteer. And not all volunteers dedicate decades of their lives to serving others.
For the final piece of the 2022 Mercury Women of Estevan March special, we reached out to one of the most instrumental and also one of humblest Estevan women, who shared her life-long experience of being a volunteer.
Volunteer of all trades Lynn Trobert – the woman whose name is braided into the history of the Estevan Motor Speedway, United Way Estevan, and an endless list of all kinds of other smaller and bigger projects that make Estevan a great place to live – says her "passion" comes from the love for people and love for being surrounded by people.
Born and raised in Macoun, Lynn was the oldest of 11 kids. Ever since she was young, she was involved with groups, dedicating their time to moving the world around them forward. Early in life, still in Macoun, they started what's now called a youth group, which was one of the first organizations in Lynn's volunteer career.
Volunteering has always been just another part of her life alongside work, businesses, family and friends. She worked in a grocery store and had several businesses of her own. Her husband Norman and she bought and ran a farm just west of Estevan by Highway 39, which is now rented out. The family sold their businesses in town and retired some time ago, but just like always Lynn's life is still filled with many projects.
For many years, she was involved with a Christian Women's Association, a big peer group. She was also involved with a committee developing downtown Estevan back in the 1970s, the times of winter festivals when Lignite Louie was originally born.
"We used to have the street fairs and the street dances and the whole nine yards and I'm so happy to see them [revitalizing] and trying to fix the downtown up. That is wonderful," Lynn said, adding that there were many local women behind that progress back then. "And then I look, and I think, there is a lot of women, strong women working on that committee now too, and that is wonderful. We need our downtown to be revitalized."
She helped with breakfast programs in Estevan schools, was involved with the Estevan co-op's social club and fundraised for Relay for Life, helping people with cancer. The list can go on, but the United Way Estevan and the Estevan Motor Speedway became her two long-term passions, which to this day keep her busy.
Lynn got involved with United Way in the late 80s. "And here I still am," she says with a smile. Over the years the organization, mostly run by volunteers, has raised millions of dollars to support many non-profits and projects in Estevan.
"That has been a passion. It's more of an obsession and a passion. You just look around and you think, 'Wow, what this money has done.' And you just feel so good, because everybody, it's this whole community and area, supports it," Lynn said.
People who were on the United Way board when Lynn joined were to a point her role models, and she wanted to someday be like them and make a difference for everyone. Now she became that role model for others, inspiring them to spread the culture of giving.
"The first part of May our committee starts going through these applications. You read what people put in these applications, different member agencies, and you think, 'We were part of that, to get the money to that group, to make this happen.' And it just gives you a fuzzy feeling," Lynn shared. "It's not that any of us are in there for the recognition, we're there because it makes Estevan better."
For the last few years, United Way Estevan has had two paid positions, but before that and outside of those positions, everything else has been done by the hands of volunteers. And Lynn said it feels amazing to be a part of that joint effort, which culminates during the United Way Telethon every year when volunteers, businesses and local people come together with the aspiration to generate the funds for community groups to keep doing their job and keep making Estevan a better place for everyone.
"We're all working together as a group, so we can make it happen … It's just such a good group of people. And now we've got so many new young ones. And I just think, wow, this is phenomenal. That's why I just keep going," Lynn said.
Lynn and Norman are going to be celebrating their 57th wedding anniversary this spring. Together they raised their son Dennis, ran businesses, moved, changed and grew older. Lynn says that her husband and son along with some good friends have always been her big supporters, helping her help others.
"My husband and son have supported me through everything. I think they've had more slow cooker meals than ... anybody else, but they've never said, 'Well, why are you doing this?' Never," Lynn said. "And I also have strong, strong friendships. A lot of them, I got to know through these organizations, they support me, and we all work together."
Lynn owned and operated clothing stores and a giftware store, and then together with Norman, they had an oilfield business running steamers, and Dennis runs a trucking outfit in Estevan. She tried on many roles, in which she picked up and developed many skills that helped her on the job and in volunteering. And while being a woman in any business, including the oilpatch, has been usual for a while now, she said she still encountered bias every so often.
"There were some people who would say, 'I need to talk to the manager.' You get a little bit of it, there is no lying, you do," Lynn said. "And the same with a trucking outfit, I've been around those guys and it's a different world. But I knew that. We had our business, and some guys don't like to be told what to do. But after a while, they [accept] it."
Others doubting women's abilities may put some people down, but Lynn said she wouldn't let anyone treat her like that.
"Women are just as capable of running businesses as men. I might be a woman, but I do know what's going on. And let's face it, there are some guys that 10 years from now, they still are not going to accept women running some of those roles. And yet there are women around that are running big, big businesses and doing a darn good job of it."
Women running and working at the farms, in the oilfield and in other traditionally men's industries make her feel good. But for herself, the fullest immersion into a men-dominated world started in the early 2000s when she joined a group of volunteers who just finished building a new race track and needed help running it. She always liked watching races, and when a call for help came, she agreed to join them.
"They built and opened up this new track, not knowing what to expect as far as capacity or crowds. And I got a phone call. I think it was the second race that they ran out here," Lynn recalled.
The track is a man's world, but behind the scenes, this world is run by women, Lynn says. First, she was helping with parking and then moved to the ticket sales booth, where she still volunteers up to this day. Throughout the past 20+ years, she's done a lot around the track and also went through different board positions.
Lynn was the first woman president of the Estevan Motor Speedway. And even though she never wanted the recognition, in 2017 she was given the Clint Prette Memorial Award and was inducted into the Wall of Fame in 2021, something she said was an honour but "absolutely unnecessary" as helping others and seeing the results is her best award.
There were times when she got swore at, but she also was thanked a lot for helping to make things happen.
"These young drivers that are coming up, I have had so many of them come to me and say, 'thanks for doing what you're doing here'. And I think, okay, I've seen you guys since you were little, and now you have families of your own, and you're still out there. That's a good feeling. And even the fans, a lot of the people that come up to the races all the time will say, 'Thanks, thanks for being there, you run a good ship.' And there are board members, there are other people that run this ship, too. But it's love, I love it. I just absolutely love it," Lynn said.
The speedway board is predominantly men and Lynn had to find her way to navigate through it. Throughout the years, board members have always been very respectful, but getting heard sometimes wasn’t an easy job.
Running a ticket booth and regularly dealing with people under the influence wasn't easy either, but Lynn said she never felt scared or that she couldn't handle it.
"I've got some strong women working behind me out there too," Lynn said.
However, while behind the scenes there always were many strong women, on the track there are hardly any. Lynn said they had some come and go and the general demographic picture is changing, but it's a very slow change so far.
"I think what happens, is once they start having their families … it's a little harder … We've had a few women out there, and then some of them left. Jobs, oilfield, everything started changing and they disappeared," Lynn noted. "Racing is a very expensive sport, very expensive for men or women, it makes no difference. And if the husband likes to race, it's hard for both. But a lot of it, I think, is that the women just ended up getting married, having their families, and then they just didn't have time."
They see more women partaking in enduro races the last few years, which is good. But just like in the big world of racing, the sport remains man-dominated due to systematic imbalances.
"It's not that they're not capable. Lindsay [Wagner, out of Weyburn, currently the only woman driver at the Estevan Motor Speedway] is one heck of a driver. She is awesome. But she has a young family. And if you don't have the support she does, it's hard," Lynn pointed out.
They also have a few young girls growing in the slingshots, which may change the picture soon.
"Those girls are going to move up into the cars in a few years, and we're going to have a different thing out there. We will have more women involved in it, and it's going to be wonderful," Lynn said.
And while the men's world of racing may seem intimidating, the hope is that it will see more diversity soon, and Lynn says most people at the Estevan Motor Speedway are open to these changes.
"The atmosphere in those pits, for the most part, is accepting, they accept everybody and are willing to help … We got a lot of cars, but we're technically a small track and most drivers are very accepting. Of course, let's face it, it's not a perfect world there, and you're going to get some of them [resisting the changes]. But really, for the most part, they're willing to help," Lynn said.
"Just don't be afraid because if you're going to do it, this is really for the most part would be a good place to do it."
She said that they are also welcoming anyone who'd like to join this world as a volunteer. She personally never thought of racing herself, but being a part of the speedway and volunteering, in general, enriches her life.
"You do it to make you feel good. If you feel good doing what you're doing, it generates [and conveys] to everybody else. If you've got a passion for it, other people get sucked into it," Lynn explained her vision of volunteering.
"My thing at the end of it is as long as I've helped some group or organization or made somebody's day just by saying, 'Okay, this problem we fixed,' I don't need a paycheque for it. I just want to be able to help, … and I don't need accolades for that either. I do it because it makes me feel good inside and if I can feel good inside then it resonates with the rest of my family, my friends."
She said she is thinking about stopping volunteering one day, but that day hasn't come yet.
"I think about it, but I'd be lost," Lynn said with a smile.