Sandy Elliott shares her son’s passion for bringing clean water to people in need. Translate “people in need” to more than 1 billion people in the world today who can’t access clean water.

Elliott, a senior in Communication Sciences and Disorders, founded UNCG’s Wine To Water chapter in 2012. The chapter, partnering with Nursing’s Gamma Zeta chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International and the Greensboro Elks Club, has already raised funds for three wells in Cambodia and 11 filters for earthquake-ravaged Haiti.

Elliott’s son Josh works as campus and media coordinator for Wine to Water, founded by Greensboro native Doc Hendley, and was president of Appalachian State’s chapter. Providing safe water across the globe has become Josh’s lifework  – and Sandy’s too.

Having wells and filters nearby not only improves health, it also frees up time normally spent walking miles to bring back clean water, she says. “Some of the children were so focused on retrieving water, they didn’t even have time to play. With the clean water, they have time to play. Just play.”


Hendley, a former bartender who lives in Boone, officially started the nonprofit Wine To Water in 2007. He had been working for almost three years to raise funds and install water systems in war-torn, often dangerous, landscapes like Darfur. Wine to Water now serves 16 countries, including Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Guatemala and Syria.

Hendley spoke on campus in 2012, a serendipitous overlap with Sandy Elliott’s efforts to launch a Wine to Water chapter at UNCG. His book, “Wine to Water: A Bartender’s Quest to Bring Clean Water to the World,” was the freshman summer read that year.

The numbers are humbling. According to the World Health Organization, about 1.8 million people die each year from water-borne illnesses. A child dies of water-related disease every 20 seconds.

Donald Kautz and Elizabeth Van Horn, both Nursing professors who work with Gamma Zeta, are happy to partner with UNCG Wine to Water for wine-tasting fundraisers held off campus. Attendees make cash donations or purchase wines from Wine to Water’s label.

Wine to Water sent the UNCG group photos of Cambodian villagers standing beside new wells paid for by its fundraisers. “It really connects you with people around the world,” Van Horn says. “When I saw the pictures I actually cried.”

Kautz recently traveled to Kenya, where he saw rural schools without electricity or clean water. Kids miss school because of illness or because of the necessity of fetching clean water from miles away. They have no way to wash their hands.

“If you ask them whether they would rather have electricity or clean water, they’ll tell you, ‘Why have electricity if you can have a well?’ ” Kautz says. “It’s really been the ability to filter water that’s allowed soldiers in other countries to live.”

Wine to Water has helped more than 170,000 so far, raising money through events, donations and selling wines from its own label. Hendley trains and hires local people to help with well installations, and 90 percent of the money raised goes to communities in need. Wells cost anywhere from $500 (shallow wells in Cambodia) to $12,000 (deep bore wells in Ethiopia) depending on the local terrain.

“The unique thing about Doc is that he doesn’t rescue, he educates,” Sandy Elliott says. “He employs local people and he teaches them about clean water. He wants them to sustain it.”

For more on UNCG Wine to Water, contact Sandy Elliott at smellio3@uncg.edu or visit the chapter’s Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/UncgWineToWater. An on-campus event to raise awareness about the importance of clean water worldwide is in the works for late November.