When you’re a contestant looking for love on the ABC series "The Bachelorette," you can travel to luxurious destinations all over the world for dates that are firmly seated in the lap of luxury.
So it’s surprising that the first "real" date for Utah native Jef Holm and fiancée Emily Maynard was a trip to Ghana to assess wells that would provide water to some of the poorest people on the globe.
Maynard, the star of the most recent season of "The Bachelorette," chose Holm over 24 other men vying for her affection, and she accepted his marriage proposal on the season finale of the show, which aired July 22.
During their trip to Ghana, without reality-TV cameras following them around, the Charlotte-based single mother said that in her nascent relationship with Holm, "I fell in love so much harder."
Maynard jumped at the chance to accompany Holm on a trip he had been planning for months. As founder of the Pleasant Grove-based bottled-water company People Water — which he launched in 2010 — Holm followed through on the company’s marketing promise that for every bottle of water sold, the company would provide an equal amount of water for people in need. (The idea, he said, was inspired by companies such as TOMS, which donates one pair of shoes to people in need for every pair it sells.)
Holm, Maynard and two company employees went to Africa for more than a week to check on the company’s well projects.
"She is the best person to take," Holm told the Tribune. He said Maynard rolled up her sleeves and got dirty, as well as bringing a suitcase of toys and gifts to give to local children.
Maynard said Holm isn’t one to brag about the company’s charitable arm, but his sense of philanthropy is one of the qualities that attracted her. During their first date on "The Bachelorette," even before she knew what he did for a living, they talked about the importance of charity missions, she said.
People Water, which is sold in selected Harmons Grocery Stores, 7-Elevens and Beans and Brews Coffee Houses, is a for-profit, cause-based "premium-water" business. Holm said the company is committed to alleviating the global water crisis. The company has two bottom lines: profits and helping others. In addition, the company’s bottles are biodegradable and recyclable.
Maynard didn’t know about the company before she met Holm. "Jef is a great teacher," she said. "I was really curious." With the company planning well projects in Africa and Haiti, Maynard hopes to bring her daughter, Ricki, along on future trips.
Recent weeks have delivered relationship-threatening stress to the couple, with US Weekly running a cover story last week about Holm allegedly throwing Maynard out after he discovered "sexting" messages between her and another man. At the time, the couple and Maynard’s daughter were visiting Holm’s extended family in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Holm’s parents are living in South Carolina while serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The couple denied the tabloid reports about cheating, sexting or brutal fights. "It can eat you alive if you let it," Maynard said of tabloid reports. "We are excited about the future of our relationship."
Holm, a graduate of St. George’s Pine View High School, said he was moving to Charlotte this week to live in the same city as Maynard and her daughter. But he underscored his love for Utah and its contributions to his ideas for his company, which he will continue to run from North Carolina. "Utah is a very business-savvy state," he said.
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