Non-Profit Group Employment Program Pumps Funds into Community Projects
What do new college baseball uniforms, shag club dance parties, retirement home ice cream socials, a mission trip to Ethiopia and a new high school football scoreboard have in common? They are just few of the projects paid for by funds raised through Charlotte Motor Speedway's non-profit group employment program.
To produce the 50th running of the Coca-Cola 600 on May 24, Charlotte Motor Speedway will employ more than 3,000 people from non-profit groups in a variety of jobs, including tram operators, ushers, concessionaires, souvenir sellers and more.
In 2008, the speedway, food-service provider Levy Restaurants and souvenir merchandiser SMI Properties hired 160 different groups from 19 counties in three different states to work various events. Among the groups were Lions Clubs, Girl Scout troops, churches, Shriners, fraternities, high school bands and athletics booster clubs. Combined, they earned $765,000 that funded community service programs locally and globally.
"We can host spaghetti dinners and fish fries all year long, but it doesn't come close to what we can make at the speedway," said Jerry Pate, a member of the Knights of Columbus Council 7450 in Concord. The council provides tram operators and bus drivers for NASCAR event week shuttles.
"We divide the money we make at the track among local councils in Gastonia, Statesville, Albemarle, Huntersville and Kannapolis," Pate added.
"The funds account for 65 to 70 percent of our annual budget in Concord and pay for programs for handicapped children, school supplies and improvements to churches."
At East Mecklenburg High School in Charlotte, the athletics booster club used funds raised at the track last year to buy a new scoreboard for the football field, banners for the gym and team uniforms. The club also sponsored players that attended summer basketball camps at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington and North Carolina State University.
"We bring parents, students and school staff to park cars on race days and it's one of our biggest fundraisers of the year," said Kari Bryant, treasurer for the East Mecklenburg Athletics Boosters. "We really appreciate the opportunity. The athletic budget from the school system only goes so far, and we know how blessed we are to have this way to raise the money we need."
University City Fellowship, a church currently hosting Sunday services at J.M. Robinson High School in Concord, provides golf cart drivers and information booth staff for the Nationwide Fan Assistance program on race weekends.
"We bring about 70 people on race days and drive golf carts around the service road to provide rides for fans that need help," said Gary Ramsey, a volunteer organizer for the church.
"The money we made last year funded mission trips to Ethiopia and Mexico, helped build a well in Ethiopia and supported families afflicted with AIDS by providing food and shelter. We also use the money for our Kidstuf children's program, for providing free movie nights for the community of Harrisburg and the general operating budget at the church."
When fans enter Gates 1 and 2 on race days near Turn 4, they are greeted by members of the Boppers Shag Club of Charlotte and the Salisbury Shag Club. Club members trade in their dancing shoes for ticket scanners and use the work as their primary annual fundraiser. Familiar fans and vendors call them the entertainment before the entertainment.
"We pay for our club functions and operating costs through work at the speedway, so we can do other community fundraisers throughout the year,"
explained club member Monica Pittsenbarger. "We're a social club dedicated to the promotion and preservation of shagging, and we make the speedway work a social event. We meet people from all over the country and club members build friendships by working together. We've even had a couple of club members that met and worked together at the track end up getting married."
As the 2009 event season quickly approaches, Charlotte Motor Speedway is again planning to hire thousands of friendly, hard-working people through non-profit groups to play host to race fans from all 50 states and several foreign countries.
"What makes this employment program for non-profits so special is that it allows people from all walks of life to work together for a common goal-to provide the southern hospitality that fans have come to expect when they visit Charlotte Motor Speedway," said Marcus Smith, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. "We take a lot of pride in being able to give back to the community through putting people to work at our events and we're fortunate so many groups of good people want to take part in what we're doing. It's heartwarming to see the ripple effect of how this program can fund such goodwill."
Non-profit organizations interested in obtaining more information about the employment program at Charlotte Motor Speedway can visit online at www.charlottemotorspeedway.com and click on the employment section or call the guest services and logistics department at (704) 454-4718.