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From left, Katy Cook, Victoria Potter and Hannah Margolis are planning to work with Wine to Water for 10 days this summer in Colombia.

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Originally published: 2014-03-20 19:03:22
Last modified: 2014-03-20 19:03:22

Three planning to take in Wine to Water this summer

This summer, three Watauga High School graduates will travel to Colombia to work in a jungle community alongside the Amazon River.

During their 10-day excursion, the students will help build a well, teach hygiene and sanitation skills to the locals and participate in community outreach activities.

Although the young women will be traveling about 2,800 miles south this May, Hannah Margolis, Victoria Potter and Katy Cook all grew up within a four-mile radius of each other, just minutes from the Tennessee state line.
The three attended Mabel Elementary School.

Now, they are studying at Appalachian State University and are members of ASU Wine To Water, a student club that strives to support local nonprofit Wine To Water in its efforts to provide clean water to people in need.

First inspired by Wine To Water's mission when they were in high school, the young women each recall learning about Wine To Water's efforts on separate occasions, and each of them have remained involved with the organization.

Cook, a senior public relations major at ASU, began volunteering with Wine To Water as a sophomore at Watauga almost seven years ago. She traveled with the organization to Peru in March 2011 for a service project. Cook says she is excited about her second trip to South America.

 "Because I have been involved with the organization for so long, I am well-versed in water crisis statistics, but those numbers never really connected with me until I saw the water crisis firsthand. Meeting people that lived without access to a clean water supply was an eye-opening experience," she said.

During her stay in Trujillo, Peru, Cook helped with construction for a children's home, distributed water filters and explained the importance of clean water and hygiene and volunteered overnight at a garbage dump.

 "My experience in Peru was life-changing. I'm used to drinking water straight from the tap, and it was difficult to realize that these people had little access to water, and the water they did have was dangerous," she said.

Cook cites her service trip as the reason for changing her major and deciding to pursue a career in nonprofits. She now splits her free time between volunteering in the Wine To Water office and working at Southern Appalachian Historical Association.

Cook also serves as the ASU Wine To Water club president, and recruits students to join the club in hosting fundraising and awareness efforts to support the nonprofit's mission.  One of these recruits was Victoria Potter, junior public relations major.

"In high school, I attended several fundraisers for Wine To Water that Katy helped organize, and I really liked their cause. I want to work in nonprofits, too, so joining the club was a good fit," she said.

Potter serves as the community relations coordinator for the ASU Wine To Water club. When presented with the opportunity to serve abroad with Wine To Water, Potter was moved to get involved. She sought out the support of her family, and asked her church for a sponsorship. Potter said she was overjoyed when the Zionville Baptist Church congregation voted to fund her entire trip.

"I am incredibly humbled and blessed by the tremendous love and support my church has shown me as I embark on this trip," she said.

 Potter enjoys photography and looks forward to be able to document her first international experience and share it with her friends and family when she returns.

Margolis, a freshman at Appalachian and club secretary, is also excited about this service opportunity. She first learned of Wine To Water through her involvement with a club in high school and had the opportunity to hear the organization's founder, Doc Hendley, speak at her school.

"Doc's story is very inspiring, and I am thrilled to join Wine To Water's volunteer team this summer. I know this trip is going to be an amazing experience for all of us," Margolis said.

The three are continuing to raise funds for the trip to cover the $1,000 fee per person, plus the cost of their flights.

With World Water Day fast approaching, the girls have been at work planning awareness and fundraising events for ASU Wine To Water. Their club collaborated with other groups on campus to host an awareness event on campus on March 20, where students could learn more about the water crisis.
Attendees were able to race with 40-pound jugs of water from a nearby creek, symbolizing the miles that people walk to obtain water, and filter that water using one of Wine To Water's filtration systems. The students collected donations of spare change for the filtered water samples.

On Saturday, March 22, which is recognized as UN World Water Day, ASU Wine To Water is hosting a benefit event at Appalachian Mountain Brewery. Robert Neil Hunter will be performing, and club members will be serving a barbecue dinner to raise funds for the trip to Colombia.

"The support that we have been receiving from friends, family and community members is really encouraging," Cook said. "This is an amazing opportunity, and we are all counting down the days until we depart."

For more information about ASU Wine To Water and the three's efforts, visit http://www.winetowater.appstate.edu.