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Wine to Water

How do you go from pouring cocktails to providing clean water for people in impoverished countries? Ask Doc Hendley, a 2004 NC State graduate who has been named a CNN Hero for tapping into his bartending experience “to save thousands of lives on the other side of the world.” Hendley is founder and executive director of Wine to Water, an international faith-based organization in Boone that installs running water and sanitation systems in the neediest parts of the world.

Hendley will attend a rally on the Brickyard at noon today in his honor, along with Chancellor Jim Woodward and Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker.

Wine to Water raises funds by hosting benefit wine events, such as tastings, to support water projects around the world. To date, Hendley’s group has worked in five developing countries, including India, bringing safe drinking water to more than 25,000 people in refugee camps, orphanages, schools, hospitals and a leper colony, as well as directly into hundreds of homes through the installation of bio-sand filters. Wine to Water is also building two training centers in northern Uganda to teach locals how to access clean water without having to rely on international aid.

This is CNN’s third global search for ordinary people accomplishing extraordinary deeds. Hendley was chosen as one of the top 10 heroes of 2009 from among 3,700 nominations by a panel of world leaders and luminaries recognized for their own dedication to public service, including Gen. Colin Powell, Whoopi Goldberg and Elton John. People can vote for CNN’s Hero of the Year online until Thursday, Nov. 19.

“Water is by far the most important resource to life on our planet. Sadly it is also a resource that acts as a breeding ground for diseases that kill children worldwide,” Hendley says. “I am so grateful for the recent exposure to our work from CNN, and also from my alma mater, NC State. In the end, the more people that get excited about our work, the more lives we will all be able to save. Thank you NC State for your support.”

CNN will announce the 2009 CNN Hero of the Year and honor the Top 10 CNN Heroes in a Thanksgiving Day telecast, “CNN Heroes: An All-Star Tribute,” on Thursday, Nov. 26, from the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood.