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Clean Water for Kentucky, LifeStraw’s Appalachia initiative

No escape

There was no warning, and no time to escape. When extreme rainfall caused devastating flooding in eastern Kentucky less than a month ago, residents lost their lives, loved ones, homes, shelters, schools, electricity, and access to food and clean drinking water. Since then, survivors have utilized springs, swimming pools, and floodwater for their water needs.

The death toll in this Appalachia region has risen to 37, and hundreds of people are still missing.

LifeStraw, a public health B Corporation, has been converting micro biologically-contaminated water into safe drinking water since 2005 and has implemented an initiative to help victims in these communities. The Safe Water Fund for Kentucky allows people and businesses to donate money to offset the cost of manufacturing and distributing LifeStraw water filters to people in need. The initiative is assisted by the USDA and community grassroots efforts to ship thousands of household and community-size filters to affected areas. The company immediately shipped 3,700 individual, household, and high-volume purifiers at the onslaught of the disaster, and in August, several LIfeStraw team members traveled to eastern Kentucky for even more relief efforts.

Hands-on helping

LifeStraw CEO Alison Hill worked across Perry, Breathitt, Knott, and Floyd counties, the hardest areas hit, in a partnership with local volunteers that donated water filters and purifiers and helped families clean their homes and shelters of mud and debris. Hill said the challenge is an emotional one and a reminder of the core values of the LifeStraw team. “It’s more than just donating and sending products. It’s about working side by side with the community to show up for families, asking what they need, listening to what is critical to them, and doing what we can to make it happen.”

The task has morphed into a grassroots effort to create warehousing and distribution sites. Volunteers are in need of coolers, tents, solar lighting, children’s shoes, sleeping bags, camp stoves, underclothes, female hygiene products, diapers, and formula.

The right thing to do

Hill is asking outdoor businesses to participate, saying, “It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s our responsibility as corporate citizens and as humans to go outside of our comfort zones, lean in, and roll up our sleeves to be part of a solution.”

The company says 100 percent of donated funds will go toward the cost of filter manufacturing and distribution.

LifeStraw products are used in more than 64 countries by schools, clinics, outdoor enthusiasts, adventure travelers, and households and are regularly deployed to support communities impacted by emergencies or natural disasters requiring potable water.

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Marianne Todd has been a professional photojournalist and writer since 1987. Her career began in newspapers and rapidly spread into national news magazines. Her work has been featured on the pages of Time, Life, National Geographic, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal, where she was nominated for Photographer of the Year International. Todd became a publisher in 2009, creating titles reflecting the music, arts, and tourism industries of the South (she still sports the accent), and her work as the official photographer for Governor Haley Barbour led her to photograph everything from Hurricane Katrina to presidential visits. Since moving to New Mexico four years ago, she has left hard news coverage to travel on her trusty BMW F 750 GS, journeying the roads of America and beyond.