We first met Colin Denlea a couple of years back through a mutual friend. Colin had started a non-profit called Trashwater and was looking to create some shirts. Previously, he had gone the traditional route of ordering a couple of hundred tees from a screen printer and a year later still had a box full in his closet. Colin was looking to have several local artists create t-shirt designs for his NPO but, being on a really tight budget he only wanted to print the shirts as the orders came through. We were able to do just that and the tees, and the project were incredibly successful.
Since those early days Trashwater has grown from Colin and his business partner Josh taking short trips to Egypt and Nicaragua to install one filter at a time to them leading teams of almost 20 people on two week long trips and helping hundreds of people along the way. According to Trashwater’s website, they are a non-profit providing innovative, clean water solutions through partnerships with communities in developing nations. Trashwater serves primarily in Nicaragua but they also stay very involved with projects and charities locally. Colin is one of those rare people who is always ready to lend a hand or swing a hammer. If you’ve ever sat on the deck outside the Fallen Arrows Showroom or saw a band play on the stage behind MINT Gallery Colin was the one who built those things. Colin lives to serve and it shows up in every area of his life. We’re proud to have him as a customer and count him among our friends.
FA: Which neighborhood do you call home?
Colin Denlea: I’m Up in Cumming (up-n-coming – see what I did there?)
FA: There aren’t a lot of folks in or around Atlanta who are “from here”. Are you an original ATLien or did you make your way here from somewhere else? If not, where are you from and how did you end up here?
Colin: I am a Floridiot – I came up from Daytona Beach in 93’ The town was getting old and I had a bunch of friends that had grown up In ATL all their lives and my parents had moved up here a few years earlier –I landed in Grant park when it was first getting revitalized, Little 5 was still hard core and jumping, and I was a beach boy in the big city – great times!!
FA: Where’s your favorite “secret” spot in the City to drink and dine?
Colin: There used to be a scary hole in the wall down by the prison off boulevard – the guy would buy cheap cases of beer and sell them for a dollar, serve popcorn in rusty pots, and you could load a bunch of music into the juke box with one quarter that always went through the machine and into a tin cup – anyway, that place is gone so I just go to Twains, Church, or Young Augustines.
FA: Tell us about Trashwater and what inspired you to provide clean water and sanitation to people in the Developing World.
Colin: I had been doing Mission trips to Egypt with my church for a few years and Josh Sanders, co-founder of Trashwater, accompanied me one summer – when we came back he was all over me to ‘do something’ – we really grooved together and he knew we could really make something happen that would serve people and fuel our passion and creativity – I made the mistake of entertaining the idea and off we went: the resat is history as they say.
FA: Tell us about your experience starting Trashwater. Were your friends and family receptive to the idea or, did they think you were nuts starting a Non-Profit to help people in Central America? Colin:
It was a lot of fun AND a lot of hard work!! It was really amazing, cool, and scary. No one really doubted us except that we really didn’t have any history of doing something like this. People knew we were taking trips over seas to help poor and underserved communities for some time and had that experience so they got on board fairly quickly. Josh and I grew a lot that first year.
FA: What is it like seeing your work help people in a real way?
Colin: It is rewarding in many ways but also very challenging. You never really get to that “this is it, we are there” moment – you make relationships; you actually know these people; you make promises and plans and they are expecting you to come through for them – you know their names and their children – you end up carrying a huge weight some times. Still, very thrilling and moving!
FA: What are some of the things you hear from Nicaraguans and from Americans a lot?
Colin: We get a lot of encouragement here in the states – people we talk to are truly Global minded and have a heart for helping underserved and depressed people groups; especially Atlantians, they seem to really get ‘it’ As for Nicaraguans, they are eager to form bonds and we feel like family, we are in it together!
FA: Trashwater has a reputation for throwing some epic bashes. Why are your fundraisers so different from most other Non-Profits and how have they been received?
Colin: Our events are great because they take advantage of all that Atlanta has to offer. We are able to mix local music, food, artists, performers, businesses, and venues into one event and then fuel it with Atlantians love of celebration and rallying around a good cause. Josh is particularly suited for event planning and it has been a huge benefit to Trashwater – not to mention a really fun way to raise funds and awareness!!
FA: When is your next trip and what will you be doing?
Colin: We will go back to Nicaragua in November and again in March. We will install a new filter system each trip at schools and feeding programs in the Managua area. In addition we will continue to work in Los Brasiles where we were deeded property in the community. We will be planting fruit and shade trees and complete our work on a building for community gatherings, movie nights, as well as medical clinics and other service programs. We will also continue to work in Padre Ramos where we hope to build our first large scale rain catchment system. Among other things.
FA: If you could sum up what “success” looks like for Trashwater in one sentence what would it be?
Colin: To see stronger communities whose children grow up healthy and full of hope and courage and with a mind to serve their communities, their country, and the world!!
FA: How can people learn more about Trashwater and get plugged in?
Colin: Join us on FaceBook so you can stay up to date on all we are doing, upcoming events, updates from the field, and how to get involved. Be sure to go to our website as well where you can read more about the global issues surrounding water and sanitation, read amazing stories, and see great pictures of our efforts in action!! Then TELL A FRIEND!!! Word of mouth support goes farther than any other resource.