Wine To Water Founder Doc Hendley Nominated One of Top 10 CNN Heroes

Online Voting to Determine Winner Ends November 19

Doc Hendley, president and founder of local nonprofit Wine to Water, investigates a well, which is the water source of a village on the outskirts of Trujillo, Peru. After determining that the water was contaminated at this site, he distributed water filters to every household in the village during his trip to Peru last week. Photo by Tasha Sullivan

In a span of five years, Doc Hendley went from working as a bartender in Raleigh to being selected as one of the Top 10 CNN Heroes, honored through national and international CNN broadcasts.

“It’s something I never expected to happen,” Hendley said. “I’m shocked, but all at the same time I’m extremely humbled to be considered for this honor.”

Hendley, who founded the Boone-based nonprofit Wine To Water, began raising money to support water projects worldwide after receiving a personal shock upon learning the statistics of the water crisis through the internet and on the news.

“One-point-one billion people don’t have access to clean water,” Hendley said. “It’s by far the number one killer of children in the world.”

Lack of clean water and consequent illnesses kill more children, he noted, than do the top three diseases that end the lives of children worldwide— HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis—combined.

Hendley, bartending to pay his way through college, held the first Wine To Water event in January 2004, pouring wine to raise money and awareness for the water crisis in the world, he said.

“I was doing what I could to give back as a bartender,” said Hendley, who continued to host more and more such events.

After six months, Hendley felt he had saved up enough money to start making a difference, and, after traveling to Boone, where his parents live, he sought counsel from Kenny Isaacs, international project director for Samaritan’s Purse. According to a 2007 High Country Press interview, Isaacs said he would hire Hendley if he would continue Wine To Water and agree to be trained in water sanitation methods and well digging.

Hendley agreed and was sent to Darfur, Sudan, for one year, from 2004 to 2005, where he helped fix broken wells.

Oftentimes, people will have a well, but it will be contaminated or broken, Hendley said.

The organization achieved nonprofit status in 2007 and has now reached more than 26,500 people in seven different countries.

“The CNN exposure really helped take us to another level,” Hendley said. “We [have] added on Peru as one of our locations [and] we’re doing training for water filters in Kenya.”

To date, the organization has dug more than 100 wells in Cambodia, five in Ethiopia and is currently in the process of digging a well in Peru for an orphanage, as well as providing training in fixing wells, installing water filtration systems and more, he said.

According to its website, CNN Heroes received more than 9,000 submissions from 100 countries this year—more than twice the number of nominations submitted in 2008. CNN’s Blue Ribbon Panel selected 28 CNN Heroes for 2009, whose stories aired weekly from February to September on CNN, HLN, CNN International, CNN en Español and CNN.com.

The field was further narrowed to the Top 10 CNN Heroes based on the criteria of accomplishment, impact and personal motivation for their service to others. Each of the Top 10 CNN Heroes will receive $25,000 to use at their discretion.

The Hero of the Year will be announced Thanksgiving night, Thursday, November 26, during “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute,” and that person’s organization will receive an additional $100,000.

According to its website, the 2009 CNN Heroes’ stories will continue to be aired through December 2010. To view the stories, click to www.CNN.com/Heroes.

An online poll is currently underway and continues until 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, November 19. There is no limit to the number of times you may vote.

To vote, click to www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes.

“A lot of people are excited to find a way to be a part of the organization that is not about money,” Hendley said. “Folks can get involved and be a part of what’s going on without writing a check.”

Wine To Water is comprised of two salaried individuals, Hendley and Annie Clawson, as well as a new volunteer named Emily Whitworth, who volunteers and manages other volunteers, plus an active board of seven members, Hendley said.

The organization employs a fulltime person in Cambodia, who supervises all the water projects there, plus a fulltime supervisor in Uganda. Wine To Water additionally employs anywhere from five to 10 temporary workers at any given time in a country with an ongoing project, to complete the work on water projects.

“Instead of sending over people from the States, we always use workers there,” Hendley explained. “It creates training for them, how to fix wells [and] filtration systems—[how to] take care of what they’ve been given.”

Using local workers also stimulates their economy and saves the nonprofit money, which can be put toward more projects, he added.

If Hendley wins, he said he will put all of the $100,000 toward water projects, most likely focusing on getting a drill rig to the new Peru location.

“Over half the [country’s] population lives in really dry and arid conditions in the western part of Peru,” he said, adding that not many aid groups are targeting the area because standard perception of the country is rainforests and the Andes.

“The second driest desert in the world is in Peru,” he added.

Hendley enjoys making a huge difference on a small budget, he said.

“No matter how big we get from the CNN exposure, our goal will always be to do as much work as we can with as little money as is required,” he said, adding that, sadly, many aid organizations do not do that.

For more information about Wine To Water, click to www.winetowater.org.

Support Your Local CNN Hero—How Anyone Can Get Involved

Those interested in doing their part to determine which organization should be the recipient of $100,000 should click to www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes to cast as many votes as desired.

The online voting ends at 6:00 a.m. on Thursday, November 19.

Beyond voting, people can choose to donate to the organization or host an event.

Although Wine To Water’s main fundraisers are still wine events, the organization now hosts the events not only in restaurants and bars, but also in homes.

“We have a whole section on our website that has info and steps for people to follow if they want to host a wine event,” Hendley said. “Now we are getting to a point where people all over the country are hosting these events to raise money and awareness for our organization.”

Wine To Water also holds other events, such as golf tournaments and charity concerts, he added.

For more information about hosting a Wine To Water event, click to www.winetowater.org.

To send a check, mail it to Wine To Water, P.O. Box 2567, Boone, N.C. 28607.