Bottles of hope
A beauty on a mission: Former Ford model gives Houston's homeless clean water
With her cover girl good looks and a life ensconced in comfort, Elena Davis hardly registers as one who would know first-hand the hardships of poverty.
But outward appearances, as the cliche goes, can be deceiving. In fact, the stunning Davis remembers all too well the difficulties of an impoverished childhood and a transient life that led to her dropping out of school in the eighth grade.
Had it not been for her inherent beauty that led to a successful international modeling career with the renowned Ford agency, who knows what path her life would have taken. Today, married to successful oilman Greg Davis, Elena is using her tough beginnings as inspiration for a non-profit organization dedicated to providing fresh, clean water to the homeless.
Eighteen months ago, she formed I Am Waters, a Houston-based non-profit with the goal of expanding nationwide. This summer, I Am Waters launched a pilot program in Houston and has to date delivered 80,000 bottles of water to agencies serving the homeless. Each bottle is labeled with words of inspiration: Peace, Hope, Love. Partners in the bottled water distribution include SEARCH, Star of Hope, Healthcare for the Homeless and the Palmer Memorial Episcopal Church Way Station.
Elena and Greg Davis welcomed I Am Waters supporters and newcomers to a modest gathering at the Contemporary Arts Museum Houston recently — an outdoor event that drove home the message of just how uncomfortable Houston summers can be for all who are outside and particularly for the homeless.
"We're delivering on the street and to the shelters," Elena said, adding that the mission is not only to supply fresh water but also to "open a dialogue between the homeless and the not-homeless ... We want to raise up the homeless." Elena takes no salary and the foundation operates on donations.
On a second front, I Am Waters gives a face and voice to the homeless through video and photography, allowing them to record their stories. Professional photographers have been chronicling the plight of the homeless in Sacramento, New Orleans and Houston. Their sagas are posted on the I Am Waters website.
Joining Elena on the I Am Waters board are former Houston mayor Bill White, philanthropist and community leader Maureen Hackett, Marsh's Energy Practice chairman Jim Pierce, GulfStar co-founder Kent Kahle, photographer Peter Duke and Los Angeles film writer and director Walt Becker.