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Bringing Water to Homes

Bob Dietrick describes his journey to ensure people of Tennessee have access to water.

Bob DietrickBob Dietrick is being honored as a Champion of Change for his efforts in being a Rotarian.

I am honored to be chosen as a Champion of Change for my work with Operation Starfish in Middle Tennessee. Our work revolves around a critical need that is often forgotten in American: the need for clean, accessible water in homes. The 2000 Census revealed that more than 1.7 million people in the United States still lack the basic plumbing facilities that many in America take for granted. Tennessee itself has approximately 21,213 households lacking complete plumbing facilities.

Several studies have documented the critical importance of water and sanitation systems, including the high risks for diseases such as hepatitis A, salmonellosis, shigellosis, and tuberculosis. However, we all know the basic truth that clean, running water allows us to cook for our families, wash our hands, and clean our homes. These basic necessities can very simply change a life.

To address these issues, the Franklin Rotary at Breakfast, in Franklin, TN, initiated Operation Starfish in 2004. Our goal is to bring water to the homes of people in Middle Tennessee who cannot achieve this goal on their own. Over the past few years, we have engaged in many different water projects within our community, which have includedcleaning and repairing wells, purchasing water and sewer taps, running water and sewer lines to homes, and repairing water leaks and septic systems.

Since the inception of this initiative, we have completed water projects for more than 30 households, and the Franklin Rotary Club is now spending 25% of its income to continue this investment in the community.

Identifying those in need is one of our ongoing challenges. To further our outreach into the community, we partner with various local organizations. We communicate with churches in our community, water companies, government agencies which oversee the sewer and septic issues, and other nonprofits which provide assistance to those in need. These organizations help us reach the population which can benefit from our services.

Our customers are usually older people who own their homes but whose sole income is social security. They often lack the resources to overcome the obstacles associated with gaining access to clean water. Additionally, we care for emergency situations, such as the time we ran water lines inside of the house for a person who lost everything in a fire.

All over the world, people lack access to clean water. Yet, so rarely do we look in our own backyard for those in need. It only takes a weekend for Operation Starfish to change the life of a family. Many of us cannot imagine living without running water in our homes. However, this is a reality for far too many people in America.

Our Rotary Club is working to eliminate this needless risk of disease and hardship, one household at a time. My hope is that this award will bring further attention to our work, and help us reach deeper into the community.

Bob Dietrick has been active in Operation Starfish for 9 years, and has traveled to Guatemala to continue his work in bringing clean, healthy water to people in need.