Perhaps the most significant after-effect is on the Habitat (for Humanity) volunteers who join us in building projects, who almost unanimously agree that the personal benefits to their lives always exceed their own financial contributions, time and effort — and that this incentive lasts for years in the future, or for a lifetime.” -- President Jimmy Carter, whose work with Habitat for Humanity began in 1984 and continues today.
DES MOINES, Iowa -- Santino Ferrucci understands the idea expressed above. Volunteering often has the unintended consequence of benefiting the volunteer as much as the recipient of charitable deeds.
As he put on a hard hat and prepared to help Habitat for Humanity put the finishing touches on a house on Des Moines’ near north side Tuesday morning, Ferrucci felt lucky to be doing so.
“We’re very fortunate to be able to do what we do -- to travel the country and drive race cars,” he said. “Part of what drives our sport is fans and people coming out to see us. If we can give back to the community, we make friends and fans in different parts of the country. It’s nice to know that you can have a connection with them. It makes you want to come back. It gives you a memory and a reason. It gives you something to look forward to.”
Ferrucci and NASCAR Xfinity Series driver Chase Briscoe participated in the completion of a two-story blue home in a Des Moines neighborhood that’s rebuilding itself. The drivers’ participation provided publicity for Iowa Speedway’s upcoming race weekends -- the NTT IndyCar Series' Iowa 300 on July 20 and the Xfinity Series' U.S. Cellular 250 on July 27 -- but it also promoted Habitat for Humanity’s ongoing effort to build and renovate homes for people in need.
While celebrities and the cameras that follow them are rare at Habitat projects, they often feel the same sense of accomplishment in the work felt by less-famous volunteers.
“It’s a team project,” said Kylie Groenenboom, construction manager on the project. “At the end of the day, people often feel a sense of accomplishment by what they got done. They are getting a lot out of the experience. Some people come to us with little to no construction experience, so it is really rewarding for them to be able to help in any way they can. By the time they’re done, they’ve learned news skills and they’ve helped a good cause.”
In the middle of the racing season, with its 24/7 work cycle and all-consuming nature, drivers relish the opportunity to accomplish something that isn’t about competition or cars or winning and losing.
“To step away from that -- whether it’s behind the wheel or behind the mic or the wrenches -- to go out and do something that normal Americans are doing is rewarding,” said David Hyatt, Iowa Speedway’s president and a 30-year veteran of the motorsports world. “Anybody who does things like this gets a sense of satisfaction from them. … When you see what these guys are doing with Habitat or things like what Hinch (James Hinchcliffe) does with the American Red Cross, there’s that sense of giving back and making a difference. I think everyone in the industry feels good about that.”
Not long ago, Briscoe took part in a similar project -- building a playground with fellow NASCAR drivers. Unlike Tuesday’s project, the playground was finished by 2 p.m., so he was able to see the benefits immediately.
“You could see the kids go play on it,” Briscoe said. “It was one of the most rewarding things you could ever imagine, just watching kids be excited to play on a new playground. You get back just as much as people on the receiving end do. It’s definitely rewarding, for sure.”
Jimmy Carter understands that feeling. People want to help, they want to be charitable. But until they actually do it, they don’t fully realize that they’re helping everyone. Themselves included. Two racers felt that Tuesday while helping build a home in Iowa.
“I was really happy to get the call to come and do it and happy that I can help build a home for a family in need,” Ferrucci said. “Also, we’re in our down time, so there’s nothing better to start a three-week stretch of racing with a little peace of mind and the ability to help people. We’re lucky to be able to do what we do. We’re fortunate to be able to share a little bit of that and learn something, too.”