Loading the supplies for hurricane relief at Bowman Field. | Courtesy WaterStep

By Olivia Krauth

Over 900 miles away from the worst of Hurricane Irma, Louisville organizations teamed up to send supplies and services to hurricane survivors.

Louisville-based nonprofit WaterStep partnered with Phos Community Church and Agape Flights International to donate water treatment systems, bleach generators and other supplies to hurricane-impacted areas in Florida.

Phos Community Church asked for specific supplies as donations for the trip, including ready-to-eat foods, diapers, tarps for roof repair and household cleaning supplies. Representatives from the three groups received donations at the a community drop-off event Tuesday night at Bowman Field.

Agape Flights pilot and board chairman Steve Koch flew the donations to Venice, Fla., where Agape is headquartered.

Along with the help of local churches, an Agape team in Venice will then send the donations wherever they’re needed most in South Florida. Mark Hogg, founder and CEO of WaterStep, said Agape is working on a plan to take donations to the Caribbean.

Volunteers will be trained on equipment setup via video conferencing.

“The tools we have developed are so simple almost anyone in the world can be taught to operate them in a short amount of time, even if they can’t read or write,” Hogg said.

WaterStep sent four of its portable BleachMakers to help sanitize areas dealing with floodwater. Using water, table salt and a small power source like a car battery, the five-pound device makes a bleach solution that meets the World Health Organization’s standards for medical disinfection.

The group also sent two M-100 chlorine generators. The backpack-size water purification systems can provide thousands of people with clean drinking water each day, according to the press release. Due to the donated equipment, up to 10,000 gallons of water will be available for drinking and showering each day.

“Currently, there’s not any simple tools to create large amounts of water fast for emergency workers,” Hogg said. “These tools are a game changer.”

Hogg credits Jeff Fuson, the pastor at Phos Community Church, for starting the joint effort.

“It’s amazing when a community of people can come together in trust and work to get something so important done quickly and effectively. Together, little steps add up to big steps,” Hogg said.

Two key obstacles hit WaterStep in this process: lack of funding and the assumption that bottled water is best in disaster relief efforts.

“Bottled water is not the best thing. It is heavy, difficult to manage, has a shelf life, expensive and leaves a tremendous amount of waste in its wake,” Hogg said, adding WaterStep’s equipment is reusable and portable.

People can donate cash through WaterStep’s website. The nonprofit is also participating in Give for Good Louisville, an online giving day benefitting Louisville-based organizations, on Sept. 14.

In its 22 years, the group has helped people in 40 countries get clean water through giving tools and training and implementing water projects. “WaterStep’s mission is to save lives with safe water,” Hogg said. “Historically, we have done that in the developing world and in disaster situations.”

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