You know when Cherie is in the office. Her laugh rises above the phone calls and clatter of keyboards, bouncing off the walls. She calls out “Hi!” to everyone who passes her door - sometimes stopping you to discuss a new TV show or to check-in on how your parents enjoyed their recent visit.
Cherie Harris has been the President of LifeSource Water Systems since 2008. The daughter of LifeSource founder B.J. Wright, Cherie took over the family business along with brother (Jay Wright) and husband (Mark Harris) when her father retired. Together they continue to grow B.J.’s vision of bringing high quality water filtration to homes across America. LifeSource was named one of Inc. 5000’s fastest growing private companies in 2017. Despite this impressive growth, LifeSource has remained grounded in its original family values. It’s still the kind of office where every person gets a card and balloons on their birthday.
Cherie and I sit in her office. The wall behind us is adorned with LifeSource magazine print ads spanning decades. You can feel the presence of BJ who once sat in this same room. The values instilled in Cherie by her father are the foundation for the company’s charitable contributions.
Why is giving back important to LifeSource as a company?
“My dad started LifeSource Water Systems in 1984. He was a big believer in ‘The more you give in life, the more you get back.’ He instilled that belief in me and my brother. Of course, that can mean a lot of things. It can mean being generous financially. It can also mean being generous with your time and helping other people. I believe in balance and I think without giving back your life is not necessarily in balance. Being charitable, in my opinion, is an easy thing to do - just be kind to people. Especially if you have it, you might as well give it away. You can’t take it with you!”
How has LifeSource given back?
“Our biggest charitable endeavor has been Rainforest Flow. My dad met Nancy Santullo 20 years ago. At the time, she had single-handedly started Rainforest Flow. We’ve been giving to them now for over 20 years.” Rainforest Flow works with indigenous rain forest communities to create safe drinking water and sanitation systems that work in harmony with their cultural practices and traditions. LifeSource donates every year, helping the organization teach villages how to build their own water filtration systems out of rocks and sand. Cherie goes on “If you don’t have clean water, you have nothing. Right? You have so much disease if you don’t have clean water.”
Over the years, LifeSource has contributed to various local and national charities, working to directly impact their communities. Some of those include All Hands and Hearts, New Horizons, Cancer Support Community and Habitat for Humanity. LifeSource recently donated $10,000 to the Ventura Community Foundation and the Malibu Community Foundation in support of those who lost their homes in the Southern California wildfires.
What does LifeSource like to do during the holidays to give back?
Cherie leans forward in her chair, excited. “We have always done a combination of things. We’ve done Toys for Tots. The last two Christmases we donated to Proyecto Happy Hearts, a grassroots charity supporting families in LA County. It was started by Christy, one of our Customer Service Representatives.”
It’s clear this is one of Cherie’s favorite topics. She continues, “Another great charity we’ve done is Hathaway Sycamores Family Services. We furnished two different family’s entire homes. We got beds, sheets, blankets, couches, pots and pans - I mean everything. Theresa (LifeSource V.P. of Operations) and I shopped every night after work. It was great. We had this huge truck and we took everything there.” Cherie lights up as she recalls “Oh my gosh, I was balling my head off. We got them a tree and ornaments and toys for under the tree for the kids. It was SO COOL.”
Cherie takes a moment, remembering. Her eyes filled with joy. Then she smiles and adds, “Oh! We just got a call the other day from one of our customers in Newport Beach who has a wonderful organization called Furnishing Hope. (A non-profit that provides furniture and supplies to transitioning families and military veterans.) We donated to them this week!”
How do you encourage a culture of generosity as part of the LifeSource work environment?
“We try to support everyone’s charities, whether it’s to give money to a kid’s school soccer team, or donating reusable water bottles - so they don’t need to buy plastic bottles. So many of our employees also have their own pet charities that we support.”
It’s true, throughout the year, people work with charities big and small. Theresa (the office dog whisperer) supports Tragic to Magic, a San Diego based charity that finds homes for dogs. Mark (LifeSource CEO) is a long-time supporter of Eastside College Preparatory School which is dedicated to making sure every kid graduates and goes to college. Every year, Lisa (LifeSource Receptionist) gives out bikes to kids who got good grades with Rolling Deep 4 Charities. Alison (LifeSource Reputation Manager) and Cherie are both on the Pasadena Guild for Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “We’re currently endowing the chief pediatrician so that he can create a heart monitor for kids. He’s making it the size of a paperclip!” Cherie adds, “And of course we always try to be generous and supportive to our employees. If someone is having a hard time, we always try and help.”
I left my interview with Cherie feeling inspired to do more. In my time at LifeSource, I have been continually impressed by the incredible level of generosity and human kindness that lives in this office. It must be the water (and the people).