Since 2015, as part of our W.A.S.H. (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) initiative, Grand Circle Foundation has funded $787,000 toward 102 water projects including wells, water tanks, and water filters, impacting 17,000 people. Today, 97% of schools and 70% of villages supported by the Foundation have an adequate supply of clean water.

The need, however, extends far beyond the schools that we support. In 2018, with Grand Circle celebrating its 60th anniversary, Harriet and Alan Lewis discovered an inspiring nonprofit organization that’s making a very real impact—and a new partnership was formed. “We partnered with Wine To Water as a way to mark our 60th anniversary because we, too, are committed to providing clean water to communities that don’t have it,” says Harriet. In particular, the Lewises were impressed by Doc Hendley, the organization’s founder and leader.

When Doc dreamed up the concept of Wine To Water, he was working as a bartender and playing music in nightclubs around Raleigh, North Carolina. The son of a preacher, Doc was a self-described black sheep of sorts, unmotivated in school and with no career ambitions beyond bartending. One night, he couldn’t get the phrase “water to wine” out of his head—and then he flipped it: “wine to water.” How could he use what he knew—bartending and making music—to help combat the world water crisis?

In 2004, Doc began raising money by hosting fundraising parties at local bars. Months later, he moved to Sudan, Africa, and installed water systems for victims of the genocide. He spent a year in Darfur, until two of his team members were killed. Haunted, he returned home, where he worked two jobs and volunteered for three years before establishing Wine To Water in 2007. In 2009, Doc was named a CNN top 10 Hero of the Year.

Thanks to a community of thousands of people around the globe, more than 650,000 people in 25 countries now have clean drinking water, and those numbers are growing daily. Wine To Water’s goal is to bring clean water to one million people by 2019. The filters that Wine To Water provides can process up to 40 gallons of water per day and last up to ten years. Each one costs $50, which includes the filter, shipping to the site, education on W.A.S.H. and filter maintenance, and follow up.

Each filter needs to be assembled by hand—which is far too time-consuming for Doc and his team. Here, Wine To Water hit a stroke of brilliance: outsource the work to organizations looking for a meaningful teambuilding activity and a way to improve corporate social responsibility.

It was a perfect fit for Grand Circle’s BusinessWorks, an annual company day where associates from 30 countries come together to celebrate the values of teamwork, risk taking, and open and courageous communication. Doc gave a moving keynote speech to open the event. The Foundation funded 1,000 water filters, which teams assembled as part of an initiative that left them feeling inspired, energized, and fulfilled. All Wine to Water filters are packaged with personal notes for the recipients—many of whom respond with their own notes of gratitude.

The Foundation is also funding an additional $50,000 to support the repair of wells in the Amazon. And we’re looking at ways through which our regional offices might help expand—exponentially—what Doc has been able to do so far with a small team.

“We are honored that Grand Circle Foundation is supporting our fight against the global water crisis,” says Doc. “Corporate partnerships make an enormous difference and with their help, we can have an even greater impact. Thanks to Grand Circle, at least 5,000 more people will have access to clean water in countries that need it the most. We are so grateful for their commitment.”

We are grateful to all our associates for their passionate support of Wine To Water—by assembling filters, they all felt part of something greater than themselves.