Engineering and Manufacturing Philanthropy

My January MMS column introduces May We Help, a Cincinnati non-profit that creates and makes free assistive devices for people with disabilities. Learn more about this organization, its plans and its needs.


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May We Help (MWH) is a non-profit I profiled in my One-Off column for our January issue. In short, MWH is a unique non-profit supported by volunteers who apply their design and manufacturing know-how to make assistive devices for disabled children and adults at no cost to them. The organization focuses on enhancing the enjoyment of people’s lives beyond their basic assistive needs, enabling them to more effectively explore their passions and interests. Examples include a modified bike for a boy with one leg, a stand to enable a girl with no arms to play a cello and a platform rocker for a woman in a wheelchair. (Visit its site for more info.)
It’s obvious how MWH’s clients benefit, and the organization might be the only philanthropic outlet of its kind that enables volunteers to apply their specific engineering and manufacturing skills for such a good cause.
Terry McManus, executive director, says he has a few goals for growing the organization. First, he’d like to increase the number of volunteers in Cincinnati (currently 60 or so lend their time and talents) as well as establish a wider array of manufacturing disciplines in the group. Additional sources that can donate raw material would be helpful, too, to reduce projects’ manufacturing costs. Terry is also hoping to expand the machining and fabrication shop at MWH’s facility. The organization currently has a knee mill, benchtop lathe, press brakes, grinders and the like that are available for volunteers to use. (Although many volunteers are retirees who use their home shop while others employed at manufacturing operations sometimes work with their company for the time and resources to work on projects there.) However, expanding the shop with additional, perhaps more advance equipment will help to create a “community” feel that would entice more volunteers to work and/or just hang out at MWH’s shop, which would facilitate group brainstorming.
But beyond that, Terry also is hoping to establish MWH locations outside Cincinnati. Two areas currently being considered are Orlando and Indianapolis. He says the organization is in the very early stages of such expansion efforts, and is currently looking simply to establish relationships with foundations, corporations and others in those areas.

Of course, winning funding through donations is key to support MWH’s selfless efforts. I hope that you’ll reach out to MWH as I have if you feel you can assist the organization with any of its needs. (Or, perhaps you have contacts in the Orlando or Indianapolis areas that could be of assistance.) Besides, MWH is all about adding value, and that’s exactly what machine shops do every day. 


MWH hopes to expand its machine/fab shop. The organization currently has a knee mill, benchtop lathe, press brakes, grinders and the like available for volunteers to use.


A variety of disciplines came together in the creation of this device that enables a person with limited dexterity to hit a switch stopping a light under the card he/she would like to play. Many other examples can be found at the organization’s site.  


MWH recently purchased this Makerbot desktop 3D printer. To date, it has been used to create components for just a couple projects. However, the volunteers have certainly been drawn to it.