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‘Wine to Water’ founder visits CALS

Sam Pardue, director of academic programs for the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, tried not to confuse a classroom of students who came to hear Doc Hendley, founder of Wine to Water, speak on a recent Friday afternoon. It was indeed Hendley who was speaking, Pardue said, not Don Henley, founder of the 1970s band the Eagles that broke up many years before these youth were born.

Hendley, 2004 NC State alumnus and 2009 finalist for CNN Hero of the Year, was the inaugural speaker for the Gordon Philanthropy Seminar Series. He explained how he developed a program of providing clean water in developing countries by raising money through wine tasting events that he started as a bartender in 2004.

Though the seminar was late on a Friday afternoon, the Bostian Hall classroom was filled with students eager to learn of Hendley’s efforts. Hendley described how he was trying to find his way in 2004 after earning a degree in communications from NC State. When he learned that 1.1 billion people in the world had no access to clean drinking water, he decided that he had to be part of the solution.

His first wine event raised $5,000, and within a short period of time, he had raised tens of thousands in donations. He wasn’t sure exactly how to approach the problem of clean drinking water, so he turned first to Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse. As a result, Hendley found himself working for clean water in “the worst place you can think of” — Darfur in South Sudan.

Initially, Hendley drove a tanker truck from village to village, providing clean drinking to villagers. Later, he discovered that many villages had their own wells that were not working because of missing parts. The answer was to develop a simple system to drill and pump water, where the infrastructure was built with parts that could be found locally, and train villagers learn to repair the wells themselves.

Wine to Water, based in Boone, is a non-profit aid organization focused on providing clean water to needy people. The organization works in Sudan, India, Cambodia, Uganda, Ethiopia, Peru, South Africa and Kenya. Water to Wine responded to the 2010 Haiti earthquake by bringing a water purification system to be implemented within disaster areas.

The next Gordon Philanthropy Seminar will be the Holt Brothers — Torry and Terrance — March 25, 3:30-4:30 pm, 126 Witherspoon. Register at:

-Natalie Hampton