During the U.S. economic recession ten years ago, Bear Creek Community Church in Lodi, California, wondered how they could ask the least of their congregation financially while making the most significant impact possible. Bear Creek was passionate about saving the lives of children, but they weren’t sure how.
The children’s ministry started collecting bottles and cans to return through the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle) program. The money they were reimbursed for every beverage container went directly to safe water projects.
After great success, the church officially launched Bear Creek Water in April 2009. They chose to partner with Living Water International and focused particularly on drilling wells at schools to directly impact children.
Wanting to engage other churches and organizations across California to join in their mission, Bear Creek Water created a manual on how to duplicate their model—“Recycle for Water.”
In 2013, a team from Westgate Church in San Jose, California, returned from a Living Water Trip to Guatemala inspired to continue serving the thirsty. After hearing about the success Bear Creek Water was having, Westgate formed their own program. Since then, Westgate Water recycled 132 tons of bottles and cans!
Many other California churches have since caught this vision to help the thirsty, including Gracepoint Church (Lodi), Quail Lakes Baptist Church (Stockton), Experience Church (San Francisco), and St. Paul’s Lutheran Church (Orange). These churches have found that encouraging people from their community to donate or volunteer has helped them expand their influence locally.
Thanks to the dedication of volunteers, these programs have funded more than 180 water projects in total! And in 2018, Bear Creek Water and Westgate Water celebrated their 100th and 50th well respectively.
Watch this video to hear Recycle for Water’s inspiring story of mobilizing their churches and communities for the thirsty!