Raleigh’s Wine to Water puts money, mouth behind solving global crisis | Crain's

Raleigh’s Wine to Water puts money, mouth behind solving global crisis

Wine to Water volunteers Lisa Merritt, from left, Sarah McKee and Dan Tranter take a photo with a woman from Nepal. | Photo courtesy of Sarah McKee

Across the globe in areas without access to running water, the average woman carries 40 pounds of water 6 kilometers a day.

That’s according to Wine to Water, a Boone, North Carolina-based nonprofit that seeks to tackle the global water crisis, one drop of water at a time. In honor of those women – and in order to help people grasp the scale of the crisis – Wine to Water wants the Triangle region to walk a mile in her shoes.

One of three upcoming fundraisers for the Raleigh chapter of Wine to Water, the Fourth Annual Water Walk takes place at 1 p.m. March 26 at The Oval on N.C. State University’s Centennial Campus, according to Lisa Merritt, volunteer director of Wine to Water.

Nonprofit’s roots

Wine to Water is currently working in five different locations: the Dominican Republic, the Amazon region, Nepal, Cambodia and Ethiopia. While it now reaches across the globe, Wine to Water has its roots in Raleigh, and now has 15 chapters across the country, including a recently launched chapter in Charlotte.

Doc Hendley founded what he would later incorporate as the nonprofit Wine to Water while bartending at a popular Glenwood Avenue-area bar in downtown Raleigh, Merritt said.

“In 2003, Doc was a bartender in downtown Raleigh when he first heard about the global water crisis,” Merritt said. “After hearing about it, he simply wasn’t able to shake it, and thought that surely there was something that we could do to help the more than 1 billion people who lack access to clean water and sanitation.”

So, in his hometown, the City of Oaks, Hendley held his first event to raise money for the global water crisis. After raising nearly $10,000, he took a trip to Sudan.

“One of my favorite things about this group’s roots and starting it in a bar is that anybody is welcome. Anybody can walk into a bar, regardless of their background or their socioeconomic status,” Merritt said. “They are all welcome and they are all coming for one purpose – to have a drink.”

Merritt, who has experience launching her own nonprofit, became involved in the group somewhat by happenstance as she was Hendley’s neighbor for years. She convinced Hendley he needed a volunteer director on the team, someone to shepherd the group's volunteers – whether at fundraising events or traveling across the world to dig wells and provide water to those who lack access. Wine to Water takes its volunteers on multiple trips to its five regions throughout the year.

“Each of those countries offers a unique opportunity to get your hands dirty and really make a difference in the world water crisis,” Merritt said. “The commonality in all of those trips and all of those locations is that we work with the nationals. We have national ground teams in each of these countries, helping us implement these projects and really helping us out. Volunteers support the projects.

“One of the things I love with the volunteer program is that anybody can come and serve and enjoy our community, no matter what their background is,” Merritt said. “They can join us overseas, as well. We’re all coming together for one purpose, which is to serve and to give people clean water and give them life.”

Volunteer stories

Dan Tranter and Sarah McKee, volunteers in the Raleigh chapter, both recently traveled to Nepal with Wine to Water. McKee called the trip “emotional,” while Tranter described the feeling he left the trip with as “connected.”

“I don't take anything for granted like I used to do,” said Tranter, who’s traveled to Nepal, Colombia and Peru with Wine to Water. “Simple things – like clean water – I no longer view as basic, but as a luxury. I take more practical measures, such as not running the water any longer than absolutely necessary. There are people in need all around us ... and it’s easy to overlook and take our blessing and gifts for granted.”

For McKee, the experience went beyond understanding the world water crisis.

“I was surprised by how moved I was about the water crisis, how strong their community was, and, above all, that relationships matter most,” McKee said. “I think that if we just went there, gave them clean water and didn’t connect with them, then we would have failed. We had conversations, we held babies, we danced, we laughed and we empowered them. We impacted over 1,000 people, we installed five new tube wells, repaired five wells, provided a filter and cooler to a school, we distributed hygiene kits.

“The Nepali people had an enormous impact on us, too, showing us what really matters in life – that you can have so much joy, even in the face of such adversity.”

To date, Wine to Water has helped provide clean water to more than 600,000 people across the world, with no intentions of slowing down anytime soon, Merritt said.

Upcoming events

Options abound for those interested in advancing Wine to Water's mission.

Perhaps the easiest way – particularly for those who like wine – is to purchase Wine to Water wines, which are available online, as well as at most Harris Teeter and Lowe’s Foods grocery stores in North Carolina and many wine shops. For each bottle of wine sold, $4 goes directly to the charity.

On March 20, Wine to Water will lead World Water Day at Top of the Hill, 100 E. Franklin St. in Chapel Hill. Anyone who wishes to help fundraise should ask for a “charity pint.” A Wine to Water volunteer will also be on hand to answer questions.

On March 21, Wine to Water is the charity on tap at Lynnwood Brewing Concern, 1053 E. Whitaker Mill Road in Raleigh. A portion of all proceeds will benefit Wine to Water.

Anyone interested in participating in the Fourth Annual Water Walk at N.C. State is asked to register in advance so that the group has enough 5-gallon buckets for everyone to carry for 1 mile and to gain just the slightest understanding of what it's like to walk for your water.

March 9, 2017 - 7:18pm