Patty Kempf was one of May We Help’s first clients before the organization really even existed. She had cerebral palsy and was having trouble turning the pages of the books she loved reading. Bill Wood agreed to help Kempf by designing something that would make reading easier for her. At the same time, Bill Dieseling was doing something similar for a member of his family. The two Bills were connected through a mutual friend and began to work together. Shortly after that they met Bill Sand and the idea for May We Help was born. The Bills began working together harmoniously and May We Help now has hundreds of completed projects and satisfied clients.
The goal of May We Help is to make life easier for people with disabilities. They do this through technology, mechanical engineering, handy work, programming and problem solving. May We Help hopes to free people from their disabilities with these custom creations that will allow them to gain independence and pursue their passions.
The organization designs unique devices for people with disabilities to meet the needs that are not being met by anything else on the market. Clients pitch to the organization what they are looking for, the team researches the idea and if nothing has been developed to meet the need, they accept the project. Beginning with design and then moving into building, the team is focused on the client and what will work for them.
At May We Help there are 60 volunteers for every one staff member. “They are the heart and soul of our organization,” says Katy Collura, development director. “They truly are the glue that holds everything together.”
There are many different opportunities to get involved with this organization, whether you want to design, build or work behind the scenes. “Our volunteers design and create custom solutions to free individuals with special needs,” Collura says.
Technical volunteers develop the unique devices for clients. Most volunteers in this category are professionals or have a serious interest in product development. These volunteers hear the needs of the client and go from there. This is a very creative opportunity.
There are resource volunteers who build and get to be hands-on with projects. This is a great place to start with May We Help because it is not a leadership position, but it gets into the action of product construction.
A person with a lot of personality makes a great “first impressions” volunteer. In this role, volunteers take charge of the experiences of new volunteers and clients. Their job is to make sure everyone is comfortable, heading to the right place and introduced to the right people during monthly volunteer meetings and monthly work meetings.
Follow-up volunteers make monthly visits to clients who have received their devices. This is a key role because May We Help wants to be sure what they build is working the way it was intended; they don't want to send someone home with a device that isn’t meeting their needs. The follow-up team receives feedback from clients about how their needs are, or aren’t, being met by their device.
May We Help provides meals for around 40 people at all of their monthly meetings. Foodie volunteers are in charge of making sure the people eat. The organization reimburses the cost of food for the meals, but be prepared to cook for what feels like an army.
One of the most important positions is the procurement volunteer. This role was designed to ensure the technical volunteers have the crucial materials they will need throughout the project. Procurement volunteers are responsible for meeting with potential material and service providers to build donor relationships. On the inside they work with the technical volunteers by helping them meet their needs. Sometimes that means contacting other volunteers for advice, checking what is in stock or contacting donors. This position is the bones of the operations and keeps the ball rolling forward.
To become a volunteer, fill out the application online and someone will be in contact soon after. There is no hourly requirement — volunteers can make their own hours. The organization just asks that all projects are done in a timely manner. “In most cases we are the families last resort and they are counting on us to deliver,” Collura says.
Monetary donations are crucial to the success of this nonprofit. Because each device is custom to the client, it is hard to know what materials will be needed for the next project. Business owners with available resources to help are encouraged to contact the procurement team about donating services or material.
For more information and access to the volunteer application, visit .
One-on-one counseling, court advocacy, support groups and hospital accompaniment are just a few of the free services that are available. The education and prevention team gives presentations to business and community service agencies that focus on recognizing sexual assault and domestic violence along with how to access resources.
“We rely so much on our volunteers,” says Ellen Newman, Hamilton County volunteer coordinator. And for good reason: There are about 40 volunteers right now covering a range of survivor services from the 24-hour hotline to court room accompaniment.
The 24-hour hotline is mostly operated by volunteers. This is a daytime opportunity to answer calls from 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m. in the office on East Ninth Street. The hotline is an anonymous support system for survivors who might need someone to talk to or advice on how to move forward.
Hospital advocates are on call anywhere from 11-13 hours per day. If a survivor is at the hospital and asks for someone to talk to, the on-call volunteer will be contacted to answer questions and provide support.
Court advocates attend arraignment court with, and sometimes without, survivors. “They are there to answer questions and help them in the initial first step,” Newman says. If a survivor can’t attend the arraignment, the volunteer advocate will make notes of what happened there. As the trial progresses, advocates continue to attend and support the survivor.
Education advocates help with community awareness. Volunteers travel to businesses, churches, schools and events around the Greater Cincinnati area to provide information on recognizing and surviving sexual assault and domestic violence. There is also a Teen Dating Violence Prevention curriculum the travels to area high schools focusing on preventing violence before it starts. The program helps teens identify healthy and unhealthy behaviors in relationships and encourages them to challenge the social norms that encourage dating violence.
Women Helping Women will often need volunteers to work a table at an event, talk about the programs and hand out information. They are also looking for people to help with Light Up The Night, their annual fundraising event on April 28.
“We are survivor-centric — that is the first and foremost quality you have to have,” Newman says. To become a volunteer, you first need to fill out the online application; after it’s reviewed, there will be an interview to determine if you are a good fit for WHW.
“Our name is a little misleading — we are really searching to add more male volunteers,” Newman says. The organization is nondiscriminatory and they are hoping to grow in the number of male volunteers they have available to work with survivors.
The training program is 40 hours and includes an overview of the programs and services along with the ethics of the organization. There is information about what to report and how to work with survivors. They also focus on how to work with specific populations of people to ensure all survivors feel safe.
All volunteers must be 18 and have a clean background check. Women Helping Women asks that volunteers stay with them for at least a year and complete two sessions a month in any of the programs.Donations:
Donations are always evolving with the needs of each survivor. Feel free to contact the organization to find out what is in immediate need. Some things that can always be used are feminine hygiene products, new clothes and bus passes for survivors to get home, to court and to the doctor’s office.
The Cincinnati Squash Academy is an urban squash program operating out of the Emmanuel Community Center in Over-the-Rhine where there are three brand new courts and a learning center. “We are aiming to blend squash and academics into one cohesive unit,” says Austin Schiff, executive director of CSA. The goal is to use squash as a motivation tool to keep kids accelerating their education.
Since the second grade, Schiff has played squash, a racket sport that has been around for more than 100 years. The game is played on a four-walled court with two or four players and a hollow rubber ball. CSA is the only urban squash program in Cincinnati and recruits from four low-income schools: Robert A. Taft Information Technology High School, Hays-Porter Elementary, Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy’s Otto Armleder School and St. Joseph School.
“We go into the school and do a presentation,” Schiff explains. “They sign up if they're interested and then they can come and try-out.” Try-outs can take four to seven months. Students begin at the bronze level to see if they fit well with the program; at silver they begin to track attendance and do a home visit to ensure the family is supportive and sees a future for their child in the program. Once a student reaches the gold level, they are fully enrolled in CSA and have complete access to all the resources, trips and the summer program. Try-outs are so extensive because it is very important that each accepted student succeeds in the program. “We want to be selective of the kids and families that we choose, knowing that this isn’t just a six-month fad,” Schiff says. He wants to find kids that are committed to staying in the program through high school.
CSA puts a major focus on school success along with learning squash. Kids come three times a week and their time is divided. Half the day is spent on the court and the other half is in the learning center working on homework and special projects. Rachel Parker, the academic director, works hard to help the students find their personal interests through different classroom projects and field trips. They have taken trips to the Cincinnati Art Museum and practiced gardening on Earth Day. “At heart we are an education program,” Schiff says “To the public we are squash, but it’s really much more than that.”
The main goal is not to train world-renowned squash players, but simply to provide education and motivation and to make sure the kids make it to college. They start preparing kids freshman year or earlier for college by exploring resume building, the application process and understanding financial aid. CSA took a group to Boston last year for an urban squash competition at Harvard University. When they weren’t playing, the students toured Harvard's campus. “A year ago, to them, squash was a vegetable or what you do to a roach on the family rug,” Schiff says. “Now they are on the all-glass show court at Harvard University playing a very traditionally high-class, high-brow sport.
Currently CSA has 20-30 volunteers. Volunteers help on the court every day at practice. Experienced squash volunteers — the more skilled, the better — are invited to come and teach kids the meticulous technique that is so important to the game. You can do this during the school year or come for the 4-week summer program.
They need tutors in the classrooms and to chaperone trips. Schiff is looking for people who care and can connect with the kids. Volunteers as young as 12 can help in the learning center. “We want people who just love being with kids and want to push them to succeed,” Schiff says.
All volunteers must pass a background check.
There is a big CSA fundraiser happening in April. Corporate sponsors are needed to provide squash supplies. Because all the athletic equipment is donated, rackets, goggles, shoes and squash balls are always in demand.
Basic school supplies like paper, pencils, dry-erase markers and a lot of disinfecting wipes are helpful in the learning center. CSA provides snacks for the students but haven’t had any luck getting a grant for fresh fruit and vegetables. Healthy snacks would be a great donation, but be mindful of students with allergies to peanuts and red dye.
The organization has its offices, referred to as the bunker, in the basement of the Emmanuel Community Center. The bunker is safe from nuclear fallout, but unfortunately is not very home-like. Schiff is looking for plants and art to spruce the place up. The office could also use a working copy machine because theirs recently broke.
Customers entering Building Value in Northside are greeted by a yard of
bathtubs, sinks and other home furnishings. It might seem like a graveyard for
building materials, but these old home fixtures are awaiting a new life.
This is confirmed by the set of child-sized lawn chairs by the store entrance.
Upon closer inspection it’s clear that the chairs are actually repurposed
shopping carts. Inside, customers bustle around the store through aisles of
cabinets, shelves and other furniture looking for a new home.
All of the goods available for purchase at Building Value are either donated by
homeowners who no longer use them or salvaged from demolished homes. Anything
bought here can be given a new life in another home rather than sitting in a
While two men get out a tape measure to see if their dream cabinets will fit
inside their kitchen, the store cat Bella Value perches atop the checkout
counter as the clerk asks a customer to sign a donation form.
“With or without the cat’s help?” he asks. Bella seems indifferent to the man’s
signature as he signs off on the goods he donated to the store.
Building Value’s main mission is to employ people with disabilities and other
workplace difficulties and give them the training needed to obtain positions in
the construction field that pay livable wages.
Those who complete Building Value’s training program develop basic
deconstruction skills. They may then be hired by companies like Messer
Construction, a partner of Building Value.
“A combination of our program and our store work hand in hand,” Daniels says. “The
deconstruction part tears down buildings and brings it back to the store; the
store sells it so that we can make money to fund our mission.”
Instead of completely knocking a house to the ground, Building Value works to
take it apart piece by piece so that almost all parts are salvageable and able
to be resold in the store. All proceeds benefit programs at Easter Seals, a
nonprofit dedicated to creating opportunities for those with disabilities or
disadvantages to realize their full potential. The tristate chapter of Easter
seals founded the store in 2004.
“We’re trying to carefully remove items so that it can come here and get a
second life as the same thing or maybe repurposed,” Daniels says. “Our biggest
component here is how much stuff we divert from the landfill.”
The cheapest way to demolish a building is to completely raze it and dump all
of the components into a landfill, Daniels says. Although Building Value does
not demolish homes this way, having the service done by them may be comparable
or cheaper because the items salvaged for resale are tax-deductible donations.
“The thing that separates us from another business is that all the material
that comes back to the store is an actual tax write-off to the organization
that offsets their bill,” Daniels says.
The customers who shop at Building Value are contractors, house flippers and
those looking to repurpose old items — a group Daniels proudly calls “the
Pinterest crowd.” Since the key to making money off these ventures is finding
cheap materials, Building Value is an essential shopping destination for these
Before Daniels became the store manager, he flipped old houses and was a
frequent customer himself. He combines his skills from managing a Walgreens
store with his knowledge of what homebuilders need to run Building Value.
WordPlay is a space in Northside where children can come for free tutoring services and creative encouragement. This nonprofit organization is dedicated to breaking the cycle of poverty by improving the quality of life, education and opportunities for kids in Cincinnati.
In just more than three years, WordPlay has gone from seeing two to four students a day to somewhere around 160 kids a week. The growing organization provides academic after-school programs, creative writing workshops and summer programs for grades K-12. “WordPlay Scholars” is their academic after-school program reserved for children who meet the low-income criteria. “WordUP” is a creative program offered to students at Aiken High School and Hughes High School. “Happy Hour” is a creative workshop and is open to all, low-income or not. It is a time where children can collaborate in a creative format and learn from each other.
Volunteer: “Volunteers are just as valuable as money,” says Libby Hunter, co-founder of WordPlay. It is a goal for the organization to match each child with a tutor for a special one-on-one experience. This means that at any given time, WordPlay needs a volunteer team of at least 150 people. To begin volunteering as a tutor, first contact WordPlay through e-mail and schedule a training session (you’ll also need to pass a background check). During the school year, tutors must be 18 or older. Tutors should be able to make a commitment of two sessions per month, each two hours long. Literacy skill work, creative reading and homework time happens 3-5 p.m. Monday- Thursday — this is when tutors are needed the most.
Proficiency in school subjects is not a requirement for volunteers, but a genuine interest to be part of WordPlay is. During training, a lot of time is spent talking about the culture and the environment that is being created at WordPlay. “Having that one-on-one time with a kid makes a difference, even if you have to ask your neighbor for help with a homework problem,” Hunter says.
Behind the scenes, volunteers make up an advisory board to review and evaluate every program at WordPlay. Anyone with expertise in developing and assessing creative curriculum is encouraged to reach out and offer their skills.
“The Change Makers” is a working concept at the moment. The goal is to cultivate a group of young creatives willing to tap into their existing social networks and organize outreach events. “It will raise a little money but really focus on outreach and awareness of the issues WordPlay is addressing,” Hunter says. This is a unique opportunity to get on the ground level of WordPlay’s outreach program.
Donate: “Close the Gap” is a fundraising initiative created to benefit summer learning programs specifically. “Children from low-income households tend to not have equal access to summer enrichment programs,” Hunter says. “That is where they lose a lot of ground in terms of reading proficiency and other academic skills.” WordPlay provides free summer enrichment programs to help kids keep their skills up and stay on track.
WordPlay can never have enough school supplies, specifically copy paper, lined paper and composition notebooks. Donating gently used or new books is a cheap and easy way to help WordPlay succeed. Free books are offered for kids all year long. Check the attic for old typewriters to donate. A WordPlay volunteer works to recondition them for resale. The money from typewriter sales and repairs goes directly back into their programs.
This May, WordPlay is partnering with Spun Bicycles to host Ride for Reading, during which a parade of 60-70 cyclists will fill their bags and baskets full of donated books and ride them to Parker Woods Montessori. Volunteers will be waiting with tables set up to distribute the books to students. This means they will need a lot of book donations ahead of time. The organization is collecting books from now until the ride. “The kids are out in the parking lot and you would think it’s a Rock concert the way that they scream and cheer when the bike parade pulls in,” Hunter says. This is the fourth year WordPlay has done this, and Parker Woods is the biggest school so far, with 500 students. In the past, they have been able to give 10 books to each student.
The cold temperature Thursday night was appropriate for the solemn gathering on the plaza outside the main entrance of U.S. Bank Arena. Since the 30th anniversary of the Dec. 3, 1979 Who concert tragedy — 11 people died in the crush trying to get inside the doors of what was then Riverfront Coliseum — Cincinnati USA Music Heritage Foundation has been having memorial observances with lighting of lanterns outside the site on that date.
At last night’s observance, which drew a sizeable crowd, the organization unveiled the two-sided memorial marker that will now permanently be at the location. It had been a long time in the works.
Before that occurred, Andy Bowes — brother of victim Peter Bowes of Wyoming — gave a speech to the crowd that included reading a statement of support for the memorial from the Who’s longtime manager, Bill Curbishley. Here it is:
“With the laying of the marker in dedication to those that lost their lives at the Riverfront Coliseum, on this day in 1979, I would like to pay tribute from myself and the two surviving members of the Who, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. I can fully understand how difficult it has been for the families who lost a loved one to go forward and attempt to regain their lives. That night will always stay with myself, Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend. It is a scar from the past and though the wound has healed, the scar is still there to be touched on occasion and felt. The band themselves were not aware of what had happened and were playing on stage when I was informed and saw the devastation on the plaza level. Nothing will erase that memory other than their soft edges.
“It’s with this in mind that I decided not to attend today because I felt it should not be turned into a Who media day or circus. There has to be dignity to this ceremony and the unfolding of the dedication of remembrance. This is not about the Who or their music but it’s about the families involved. Many people suffered as a result of that day and I am sure that many still do. If myself and the band can be of any assistance in the healing process going forward we are there for you.
Mayor John Cranley, who promised at last year’s observance to dedicate a permanent memorial marker at this one, also gave a brief, moving address. He closed with, “Something happened a long time ago but is still with us. As your mayor, I’m proud to stand with you and say we will never forget.”
The band, itself, posted a short online comment, “Today we remember those 11 Who fans who lost their lives in the crush to enter the Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati, Ohio. May they rest in peace.”
Incidentally, something that seems to have gone overlooked at the time it occurred here but has continuing resonance and pertinence today can be discovered in a YouTube clip of Pearl Jam playing at U.S. Bank Arena on Oct. 1, 2014.
During that band’s 2000 appearance at a Danish festival, nine fans in the mosh pit died from suffocation. At U.S. Bank Arena, Eddie Veder reminded the crowd about the tragedy outside the arena in 1979 and how the Who “have to go on living with that event that happened 35 years ago. That became something we had to learn about, and they reached out to us when we really needed it.”
Pear Jam then played “The Real Me,” the last song the Who performed in Cincinnati at the December 3, 1979 show. Here’s the clip:
For more background on this new memorial, read my Big Picture column in this week's issue.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company continues its summer tradition of Shakespeare in the Park as the free series returns for the seventh year this August. Romeo and Juliet and A Midsummer Night’s Dream will be showcased in parks around the Greater Cincinnati area and Northern Kentucky Aug. 3-30.
CSC Ensemble Member Nicholas Rose is directing the classic lovers tale, Romeo and Juliet. While the fantastic story of betrayal and magic in A Midsummer Night’s Dream is being directed by CSC Education Associate Miranda McGee. Six actors from the CSC Resident Ensemble will be acting in these performances. After the free park tour, they will continue to tour community centers, schools, venues and other performance centers into May of 2014.
Cincinnati Shakespeare Company is continuing its partnership with Cincinnati Parks and Recreation, offering free shows at Seasongood Pavilion in Eden Park, Burnet Woods, Mt. Echo Park and the new Smale Riverfront Park. Washington Park will see the group on their tour, alongside parks in Madeira, Colerain and Monroe in Ohio, and Burlington, Edgewood and Maysville in Kentucky. The acting troupe will have two performances at the Vinoklet Winery as well. Certain park locations will be accepting canned food and non-perishable items — CSC has a partnership with the Freestore Foodbank.
If a free, al fresco viewing of Shakespeare’s best sounds fun, then make sure to get to each performance early to ensure good seating. All shows are general admission with first-come, first-serve seating. For more information go to cincyshakes.com.
For show times and locations, refer to the list below:
Saturday, Aug. 3, Romeo and Juliet at 7 p.m. in Boone Woods Park, Burlington
Wednesday, Aug. 7, Romeo and Juliet at 7 p.m. in Eden Park – Seasongood Pavilion, Mount Adams
Thursday, Aug. 8 Romeo and Juliet at 7 p.m. in Burnet Woods, Clifton
Friday, Aug. 9 Romeo and Juliet at 7 p.m. in the Monroe Community Park, Monroe, Ohio
Saturday, Aug. 10 A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 6:30 p.m. in the Harry Whiting Brown Lawn, Glendale
Sunday, Aug. 11 Romeo and Juliet at 7 p.m. in the McDonald Commons Park, Madeira
Wednesday, Aug. 14 A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 7 p.m. in Browning Shelter, Maysville, Ky.
Thursday, Aug. 15 A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 7 p.m. in Mt. Echo Park, Price Hill
Friday, Aug. 16 A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 7 p.m. at the Vinoklet Winery, Colerain
Saturday, Aug. 17 A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 7 p.m. at the Miami Whitewater Forest – Harbor Point, Harrison
Sunday, Aug. 18 A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 7 p.m. in Washington Park, Over-the-Rhine
Wednesday, Aug. 21 A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 7 p.m. in Burnet Woods, Clifton
Thursday, Aug. 22 A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 7 p.m. in Colerain Park
Friday, Aug. 23 Romeo and Juliet at 7 p.m. at the Vinoklet Winery, Colerain
Saturday, Aug. 24 A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Keehner Park, West Chester
Sunday, Aug. 25 Romeo and Juliet at 6 p.m. in Presidents Park, Edgewood, Ky.
Tuesday, Aug. 27 A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 7 p.m. in Uptown Park, Oxford
Wednesday, Aug. 28 A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 7 p.m. at the Clifton Cultural Arts Center Lawn
Thursday, Aug. 29 A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 7 p.m. at the Smale Riverfront Park, Downtown
Friday, Aug. 30 A Midsummer Night’s Dream at 7 p.m. at the Eden Park – Seasongood Pavilion, Mount Adams
The Showboat Majestic is a venue that floats along every summer with solid entertainment. Right now you can come on board for a classic piece of comedy by Neil Simon, The Odd Couple. It's a hit from 1965 in a production featuring a couple of great local actors: Joshua Steele as the prissy Felix and Mike Hall as the messy Oscar. They're a pair who know their way around a funny script, so it's a fine show for a summer's laugh. Tickets: 513-241-6550
Maybe you thought Sesame Street was funny when you were a kid. How'd you like to see some raunchy puppet behavior? Avenue Q is onstage in Dayton at the Human Race Theatre. The 2004 Tony Award-winning musical offers laugh-out-loud musical mayhem. But leave the kids at home: This one is aimed at those who are twentysomething and up, offering answers to a simple question: What happens to the kids who were raised on Sesame Street when they grow up? You'll find the answers — in songs like "It Sucks to Be Me" and "The Internet Is for Porn" — at the Loft Theatre, 126 North Main St. in downtown Dayton. Tickets: 937-228-3630
More 2013 Fringe coverage:
• May 22 cover story: “Navigating the Novelties”
• April 18 Curtain Call column: “Fringe Has Sprung”