Get Involved Archives - Page 2 of 7 - WaterStep

Getting Involved – Cliff Carlson

Guest blogger Cliff Carlson shares how he and his family got involved with WaterStep and how it has made an impact on his life.


During my daughter’s 11th grade high school year in 2007, she needed to fulfill a Beta Club requirement of outreach. While talking to a family friend, it was recommended that she look into supporting an event called I Thirst with a group called Edge Outreach, which is now WaterStep.

I remember hearing about the posters she put up and remember little else about what she did, as all she talked about was the people. She spoke about how special they were and how much of a heart they all had for helping others. She told me I needed to meet Mark Hogg and get to know him.

At the time I was an executive with PPG Porter Paints. After making the connection, Mark and I were able to bring PPG Porter Paints into the mix with various paint donations to help meet the needs of the local outreach going on at that time. As WaterStep continues to grow, it has been a blessing to be involved both personally and professionally.

2013-12-12 21.40.10

By supporting WaterStep, we are providing safe water to countries in which mothers sometimes take up to two years to give their children a name because of the extremely high death rate. We are providing WaterBalls that carry water so women who walk for miles don’t have to carry buckets on their heads. We are sending life-saving water technologies on the USNS Comfort, put on by the Southern Command of Miami which coordinates events in Central & South America as well as the Caribbean.

WaterStep changes lives for the better.

For me personally, the greatest experience I have had with WaterStep was when they acquired their new building on Myrtle Street. I had the honor to kick off the paint day with 62 professional painters at 7am that Saturday morning. I got to explain to them how what they were doing would affect people’s lives around the world forever.

That day may not sound like that big of a deal, but to me, knowing what I know about WaterStep, it was a key moment in my life. I am continually blessed to be involved currently on bigger ideas, which will not only help the city of Louisville but also further the underlying mission, which is to save lives with safe water.

The bottom line for me is, as I walk the hallways in the WaterStep building, I can’t help but feel like I am standing in the breach between life and death for so many people I may never even meet. There is something profound and beautiful in being a part of something which transcends our own lives and our world as we see it. WaterStep has given me and many other that opportunity.


At WaterStep, we are continually blessed by supporters from our community who sue their skills and resources to help us work toward our mission: Save lives with safe water. If you’re interested in getting involved, like Cliff, check out our many opportunities.

Celebrating the Belle’s 100th Birthday

Belle of Louisville water demonstration

October 15th through the 17th WaterStep helped celebrate the Belle of Louisville’s Centennial Birthday by participating in the Centennial Festival of Riverboat’s, Adventures in Education Festival. The festival gave 2000 Louisville third through fifth graders the opportunity to explore various educational displays and demonstrations.

WaterStep staff, along with student volunteers from the University of Louisville, taught local students about the importance of safe water and demonstrated technologies to create and distribute it. The students learned about the M100 chlorinator and the played with the tippy-tap and WaterBall. Participating educators also saw examples of Quench, the new, free, downloadable curriculum being used in schools right now to spread awareness of the global water crisis.

Belle of Louisville water demonstration 2

Meet the Student Water Initiative

Student Water Initiative


Read the following interview with the three founding members of the Student Water Initiative – Will Modrall, Jed Kennedy, Elizabeth Carbone. This student group from the University of Louisville is competing in the upcoming Hack2O Water Hackathon, a design-build competition to create innovative water solutions for the developing world. The Student Water Initiative will be collaborating with a group from Costa Rica to develop a safe water solution that is relevant to a specific need in the Costa Rican community. Hack2O is November 8 at FirstBuild in Louisville, Kentucky. Are you a student, engineer, or other professional interested in making a difference through technology and engineering? Hack2O is the challenge for you.




What is the Student Water Initiative?

The Student Water Initiative (SWI) is a new group at the University of Louisville that is partnering with WaterStep to connect with communities abroad to develop community specific and sustainable solutions to safe water.  Our group is unique in that our approach to development solutions are community specific, culturally relevant and business minded.


Why is Student Water Initiative important? And why now?

There is no other group on campus that is specifically dedicated to water.  Recently the opportunity to work with Dr. Thad Druffel, our faculty mentor, an engineer and former Peace Corps volunteer, WaterStep and FirstBuild became available.  These three key components gives solid experience to draw upon, an avenue to connect with communities abroad and access to local engineers, which combined are resources that enable us to make progress towards our mission.


How will the Student Water Initiative make a difference?

Often development groups with the best intentions fail to make a difference because the solutions they offer are not relevant to the community they intend to help or the community lacks the skills or resources, namely money, to maintain the new technology.  We at the SWI intend to identify a community with a specific need and then address that need in a way that is relevant to the community’s culture and resources.  In order for our project to be sustainable we will engage support at the local level, offer simple solutions, and incorporate a business component that will ensure financial sustainability, because after all water isn’t free.


Who can join the Student Water Initiative?

Any university student with an interest can join the initiative.  SWI projects will have many facets including: social, cultural, business, and engineering aspects. Therefore, it is essential that we have a diverse group of students with a wide range of skills and perspectives working on our projects.


What are the upcoming events for the SWI?

SWI’s pilot project will be in Costa Rica, where we will connect with student engineers in Costa Rica to develop both a safe water technology and a business plan to deliver to a Costa Rican community.

Our next big event is the Hack20 competition where we will be competing as a student team.  Our partners from Costa Rica will be joining us at the event remotely and as a group we will begin to develop the technology and business solutions for Costa Rica.  Win or lose, we will continue to collaborate with our Costa Rican counterparts post-competition and aim to have a deliverable product to implement in Costa Rica, by the summer of 2015.

Long term goals include engaging more communities abroad for project opportunities and also including energy solutions in our water related projects.



Volunteer Spotlight: 13-year-old collects 600 pairs of shoes

by Lauren Hack

A quick post to celebrate one of our great volunteers. Thirteen-year-old Kylie from Florence, Kentucky, hosted a shoe drive last month and collected 642 pairs of shoes! Thanks to Kylie, these shoes will support safe water projects in communities around the world.

Florence Kentucky shoe drive for safe water


How do we turn shoes into water? Donating new and gently used shoes can provide water to someone that needs it. Shoes are sold to an exporter and the funds received support WaterStep’s mission to equip people with safe water solutions in developing countries.

This a win-win-win situation, and here’s why:

  • People get the safe water that they need. The shoe program helps to bring safe water to thousands of people every year. Providing safe water helps to eradicate the waterborne diseases that keep too many people from leading the full, productive lives they deserve. A person that was sick before can now spend time doing something else, like getting an education, learning a work skill, or taking care of her family.
  • Shoe businesses support local economies. Once the shoes leave WaterStep, our exporter sells the shoes to local vendors in some of the same countries where we do water projects, contributing to small business ventures that support the local economy.
  • Less waste goes to landfills. Shoes that might have been thrown away are re-purposed, keeping hundreds of tons of waste out of the landfill.

Thanks to volunteers like Kylie, one pair of shoes can provide affordable footwear, help to build the economy of a community, cut down on waste, and, in the end, help someone get safe drinking water.

Interested in donating your used shoes or hosting a shoe drive? See the Shoe Page for more information.

Community Shoe Drive in Peoria

When communities come together to collect shoes, they support water projects around the world. That is exactly what one Peoria community did.

Peoria Shoes

When accountant Denise Henderson from Peoria, IL saw the impact that her church made through a shoe drive, she decided she could multiply their efforts by starting even more shoe drives in the area. Henderson works for the Iona Group and alongside other motivated coworkers,  they contacted local businesses, churches, and organizations to host shoe drop-sites.

The Iona Group has been extremely successful, collecting 11,000 shoes in 2012, and over 15,000 in 2013. The Peoria community’s efforts will provide safe water to more people across the globe.

Starting August 1st, the Iona Group’s third shoe drive will begin with 45 drop-sites around the Peoria and Morton areas.

Iona Group Photo

“As a community, Peoria has done a fantastic job in collecting shoes, probably more so than any other community that we work with,” said Water Step Chief Operating Officer Greg Holt. “And we’re in several different states collecting shoes.”

The next shoe drive will kick off on August 1st. Check out more info in this article form Central Illinois Proud or this article from the Journal Star.

You can call Denise at 309-263-4662 to get involved.