National Assistance League was one of the first nonprofit, nonpolitical, nonsectarian organizations founded in the West to recognize the potential of volunteers helping those less fortunate to a better, more meaningful, life. The first chapter, Assistance League of Southern California, was organized in Los Angeles in 1919. National Assistance League was founded in 1935.
In the early years, Assistance League of Pasadena organized a Toy Loan program and a central Volunteer Bureau. During World War II members worked for the Red Cross and in Hospitality House, a center for servicemen. In the 1940's and 50's the chapter provided an Occupational Therapist at Huntington Memorial Hospital and members worked alongside the therapist. Financial support was given to the Girls Club, Community Chest, Boys and Girls Aid Society, Visiting Nurse Association, provision of nursing school scholarships, and many other community groups.
Fundraising activities covered the gambit - Assistance League of Pasadena sponsored prize fights at the Pasadena Arena, had skating parties, ran a shop filled with home-made goodies, held premier nights at the Pasadena Playhouse, a Halloween Haunted House at Bullock's (now Macy's on Lake Avenue) and from 1945 until 2007 an annual Book Review Series.
In 1955, Assistance League of Pasadena opened Craft Fair Gift Shop, a nonprofit shop where older adults could supplement their income by offering their handcrafted items for sale to the public. The shop was originally opened at 924 East Colorado Boulevard. The shop was an immediate success and soon needed room for expansion.
In 1961 a vacant lot on the corner of California Boulevard and Hudson Avenue was purchased and a new building was soon underway. In 1965, the new building at 820 East California Boulevard was officially dedicated with many community, county and state dignitaries in attendance.
Craft Fair Gift Shop was moved to the new location and a Senior Volunteer Center, a new concept at the time, was also established. Hundreds of seniors faithfully served in this program sewing, mailing, baking, and woodworking to serve other nonprofit agencies in the community. The Senior Volunteer Center operated until 2007.
Over the years, other programs have been developed to meet the ever-changing needs of the community. From 1982 until 2006, puppet shows teaching about the dangers of smoking and substance abuse were performed for thousands of area grade-schoolers.
The Operation School Bell® program was started in 1990. This program provides underserved schoolchildren with needed school uniforms, shoes, books and personal care items. In 2006 a partnership was established with Assistance League of Flintridge. This has allowed us to serve even more children every year. A milestone was reached in 2016 when the 20,000th student was served.
The Assault Survivor Kits® program was created in 1995 to provide a change of clothing to assault victims. The Bear Hugs program was created in 2008 to provide teddy bears to abused and neglected children. In recent years both of these programs have been operated in conjunction with the Violence Intervention Program at County + USC Medical Center. In the summer of 2010 both of these programs were expanded to include the San Gabriel Valley Medical Center.
Since 1977 a major source of our funding has come from our Treasure Fair Thrift Shop which offers a low-cost source of gently used merchandise. Originally opened as a small shop on Boston Court, Treasure Fair moved to its present location on Foothill Blvd. in east Pasadena in 1993.