School project: Non-profit + famed jewelers = $600,000 for clean water

by Vanessa Garcia Rodriguez |

Everything begins with water. It is the most precious resource that supports life in all of its forms. Water is the nourishment that mends us - body and soul. A purifying symbol, the Living Water Charm was created for daily reflection - leading us to the type of compassion and healing that quenches the thirst of the world. Photo: VANESSA GARCIA RODRIGUEZ

HOUSTON (Christian Examiner) -- From Selena Gomez and Beyoncé to Taylor Swift and the teenage girl on your Christmas list, Alex and Ani jewelry is a popular pick for fashionistas of every age. Thanks to one young visionary, purchasing certain items of the highly sought jewelry can also help some of the 783 million people around the world without access to safe drinking water.

As a senior at East Greenwich High School in Rhode Island, Paige Dellerman was required to complete a project that faced and overcame a challenge. For the 17-year-old Missouri native, who relocated to the Ocean State with her mom and two sisters as a teen, that challenge became taking clean water to impoverished nations across the globe.

"I knew right off the bat that I wanted to do something that was bigger than selling cookies out of a box and that would make a huge difference," Dellerman told Christian Examiner.

That her project would involve the non-profit group Living Water International was never a doubt, she added. The Texas-based organization creates sustainable water solutions in needy communities then enlists local churches to maintain the structures and preach the Gospel.

A long-time member of Windsor Crossing Community Church in Chesterfield, Missouri, Dellerman said she had learned about the global water crisis at an early age through the church's involvement with the non-profit.

"Living Water really stuck with me because the organization is dedicated to providing clean water in Jesus' name," she said. "There are a lot of non profits, but this is tied into my love of philanthropy and my faith. You couldn't ask for more."

Having identified the challenge, the next step was to determine a way to overcome the issue. Research and her inner-fashionista led her to a popular Rhode Island-based jeweler.

"I decided I was going to wing it and approach Alex and Ani and see if they would allow me to create a bangle that would be dedicated to Living Water," she said explaining her courage to reach out to the multimillion dollar company.

"I had researched a lot of philanthropy ideas and companies that were involved in philanthropy and this one really caught my eye," she explained. "I thought 'What better way to introduce this incredible organization (Living Water) to those who don't know about it other than through jewelry?'"

In October 2011, Dellerman's project became Alex and Ani's first ever student-driven inspiration project and her bangle joined the company's Charity by Design line. Their website states this division of the company helps non-profit organizations spread awareness, reach financial goals and share their mission.

Her involvement spanned from concept to design as well as the planning of promotional events for the hand-made bangle bracelet featuring a bright blue water drop.

Since 20 percent of the sale price of each bangle goes to Living Water, three years later, her project still raises money to fund safe water projects around the globe. More then 200,000 bangles have been sold so far, raising $600,000 and counting. The project expanded in February 2013 to include a second bracelet designed with a rose-colored stone that represents the impact of water on women.

(Living Water International)Last summer, Paige Kellerman joined a missions team that included Alex and Ani's Charity by Design manager of operations and partnerships. Together the groups drilled a well and provided hygiene education for the Guatemalan village where they spent eight days.

As she studies pharmacy at the University of Rhode Island, Dellerman, now 21 years old, remains involved with the partnership she helped forge between the two organizations.

In 2013, Alex and Ani held a contest awarding the employee who sold the most bangles a chance to accompany Dellerman and Charity by Design Manager of Operations and Partnerships Dee Fraser to Guatemala on an eight-day summer mission trip to build a well.

Additionally, $5 gift cards were made available to customers to make Living Water donations.

"Philanthropy has always been a huge part of my life so I'm trying to continue to be very involved in any way that I can, and trying to think of more ways to help Living Water and make a difference."

Living Water's Chief Executive, Mike Mantel, said Dellerman is a great example of the way volunteers "respond personally out for their own imagination for the burden of clean water for the thirsty."

"An organization like Living Water International is a community made up of staff, volunteers, donors and partners. We as a community organize ourselves around the great injustice of water," Mantel said. "Paige brought her passion for the water crisis and made the bridge between Alex and Ani and began to dream about what that partnership might bring."

Recalling a Super Bowl advertisement the jewelry company aired several years ago, Mantel said the result of Dellerman's work has greatly broadened the reach of his company and "opened the eyes of a constituency that Living Water could never reach."

"As a follower of Jesus, I believe the Lord speaks to people and uniquely gifts people," Mantel said, noting the impact of those gifts on cause-driven companies like his.

"When we have a burden for something or when we want to take action in the world I think we ought to think about how to use our strengths, our relationships, our knowledge and our unique gifts to make a difference. You don't strategize these ideas, they come from within," Mantel said. "Paige is a great example, and I just love the way she and other volunteers respond personally out of their own imagination."

Alex and Ani was founded by Carolyn Rafaelian. According to a Business Week article featuring the company's growth, the jewelry can be found in their retail stores as well as Bloomingdale's, Nordstrom Major League Baseball stadiums and Disney theme parks.