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The 3D printing community isn’t just a community in name — one of the most inspiring aspects of the maker movement has, for me, been reading about the work people come together to do for those who could use the help. Sometimes it’s beyond simply lending a helping hand. The e-NABLE community of volunteers and like-minded individuals go a step past that, literally giving a hand to those in need. We’ve covered e-NABLE pretty extensively in our stories, and for good reason: they keep coming up with more stories, more projects, more donations, more print-a-thons, more heartwarming events centered around providing free 3D printed prosthetic hands and arms.

Children born without a complete arm, amputees who have lost a hand in an accident, victims of war trauma: these are the recipients, and only a small sample of the thousands of individuals around the world who would benefit from prosthetic hands and arms. These are the beneficiaries for whom all the work is done.

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In 2014, e-NABLE had a year of phenomenal growth. The community was started up in 2013, and with 2014 representing the first full active year, the expansion was exponential as more people became involved, more volunteers with more 3D printers. Now with over 3,200 volunteers involved in e-NABLE, and more than 1,000 recipients throughout the community’s lifetime, e-NABLE shows no signs of slowing down. Neither, though, does the need for the hands. Volunteers for e-NABLE respond individually to requests for help, responding to the heartwrenching stories appearing daily in their inbox: “The emails never end,” they say.

And with a growing awareness of all that e-NABLE offers, those emails won’t ever end. And e-NABLE doesn’t want them to — they want to continue to offer prosthetics, free of charge to the recipients.

argentinaOne of the most difficult parts of being a volunteer-based organization, though, can be recognizing when to ask for help for the organization itself. The recently formed Enable Community Foundation has been set up to do just that: ask for your help.

The volunteers for e-NABLE have spent not only their own time, but all their own resources — money, travel, materials, 3D printers — to contribute to the 3D printed hands for super heroes, wounded veterans, war-wounded children in Syria, training Haitians to make their own prosthetics, and allowing children to fully hug their mothers for the first time. These efforts are all heroic in themselves, even before taking into account the full costs that fall on those who make them possible.

“A few of our current mission-critical volunteers have gone from donating 8-10 hours a week, to spending 8-10 hours a day helping to connect families to makers, providing community support, planning events, coordinating school needs and so much more and they simply can not continue to donate this much time without compensation so they can care for their own families, while caring for so many others,” says e-NABLE’s Jen Owen (emphasis hers). “We need funding to help pay for their time so that we can continue to gift FREE 3D printed prosthetic hands for those in need.”tshirt

Through the Enable Community Foundation, anyone can donate to keep e-NABLE up and running. It isn’t just about monetary donations, of course, as there are multiple ways to get involved with e-NABLE, from building to 3D printing to material contributions. If your time or money is more limited, just sharing e-NABLE’s message is a huge help to them; social media is a major platform for getting the news across, so share away on Facebook, Twitter, blogs, vlogs, or anywhere else you have an e-presence.

The Enable Community Foundation does of course also accept financial contributions, including one-time gifts or a recurring $10 monthly donation. By skipping a Starbucks trip or two, your $10 monthly contribution could help keep the project going. You can even purchase an e-NABLE t-shirt (available in men’s, women’s, and children’s sizes) to wear your heart on your short sleeve, spreading the message everywhere you go.

As Owen notes, “The Enable Community Foundation’s wish is that we can also internationalize our website and resources pages so that the files and information will be readily available to people of many languages and we have hopes to provide mini-grants for projects like providing shipping costs for mailing large numbers of hands created in ‘Build-a-thons’ – to clinics in places like Haiti, Mexico and hospitals in war zones.”

Let us know your thoughts on helping the helpers over in the Enable Community Foundation forum thread over at 3DPB.com.

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