A Humankind Project for Access to Clean Water
Readily available, clean drinking water is something many of us take for granted. All we have to do is turn on the tap, and it is right there for us. Yet, for many people across the globe, accessing clean water is much more difficult. T.J. and Meg Foltz, of Humankind Water, are working hard to change that.
“Humankind was started by my husband around 2010, with the product launching about a year later,” Meg Foltz said.
A former youth pastor, T.J. Foltz had traveled internationally, where he met communities that did not have access to clean water.
“He felt called to quit his job, start a bottled water company, and donate 100% of the net profits to clean-water projects while he was largely supported by others as a type of missionary model,” she said.
Not long after the first bottle came off the production line, Humankind entered a contest called “Get on the Shelf,” sponsored by Walmart, to help get “the little guy into the biggest national retailer,” Foltz said.
Humankind won, beating 4,300 other products entered and with that, Humankind made it into the big leagues.
Lancaster County native Meg Foltz had always had a passion for helping others. As a critical care nurse on the frontlines of a massive cholera outbreak in Haiti, she recalls that “people were dying within 24 hours because they didn’t have access to clean water … it started a fire in my gut that there had to be a way I could use my platform, my voice, to get people clean water. I just didn’t know how.”
T.J. and Meg met in 2012 after she heard about the launch of Humankind and the recent win with Walmart. They found that they shared a passion for helping people have access to clean water and started working together, and, as Foltz said, “Soon we were in love … and the rest is history.”
Headquartered in Manheim, Humankind has a presence in the eastern region of the country, from the New York state line to the Jersey Shore to D.C. and the north of West Virginia.
“We do have a handful of other stores scattered around the states and have roughly 700 rooftops that carry us, including Giant,” Foltz said.
They are happy to call Lancaster County their home base because “since the very beginning, we’ve found Lancaster to be … incredibly supportive to small-business owners. People love that every bottle sold/purchased provides at least 50 gallons of water to someone in need,” she said.
T.J. and Meg Foltz truly enjoy the diversity and relational aspect of their work and, as Foltz put it, “a good day is a great interaction with someone … it’s sharing about the heart of who we are at Humankind. It’s making a difference, big or small.”
Of course, sometimes they feel overwhelmed at the incredible need all around the world, yet they know they are having an impact with every gallon of clean water they help provide.
“I’ve met those individuals who are so grateful for clean water and those that are waiting,” Foltz said. “There is a weight and responsibility that comes with taking what you’ve seen and heard and not letting it fall on deaf ears.”
Working together as a couple is a unique experience, Foltz said. It’s one with many pros and cons, but “ultimately, being able to pour into a great cause alongside my husband is really special,” she said.
They have been able to help communities in Africa, India, and the Dominican Republic, as well as help support disaster relief in the United States.
“The opportunities we’ve had meeting the beneficiaries has been life changing,” Foltz said. “Being able to lead teams on vision trips is humbling. I can’t get enough of sharing the celebration!”
The charitable side of the Humankind Company is referred to as kindHuman. In addition to the profits from the sales of the bottled water, kindHuman also provides an opportunity for those who are unable to access products or who want to make a bigger impact to make a tax-deductible donation.
They also “transfer the funds that are reserved for clean-water projects from the beverage sales from Humankind to kindHuman,” Foltz said.
Those dollars, along with any donations collected, are used to provide wells, filters, and rain-catchment systems in the communities they serve.
“We have vetted out international hydro-philanthropists that ensure that the work being done has local involvement and ownership, which helps to create sustainability,” she said.
Although neither T.J. nor Meg Foltz has any formal training in owning or operating a business, together they have learned how to make it work and are seeing their vision become a reality. They have learned to recognize their own strengths and weaknesses and to surround themselves with a strong team that shares their passion.
“I like to manage a team and believe in hiring the right person, training them well, setting expectations, and then letting them run,” she said.
Foltz is looking forward to a bright future where there will be “new iterations of Humankind,” she said. “New products and new causes to support … I’d love to see an end to the world’s water crisis in my lifetime.”
Since they began this journey, the Foltzes and the Humankind team have helped provide access to clean water for over 160,000 people, and they have every intention to keep growing that number.
“Our focus in 2020 is ‘Made for This’ — a reminder that we’re made to leave an impact and be a difference maker,” Foltz said. “You pour into the empty, raise up the fallen, and cheer on the brokenhearted … there is room for all of us at the table.”