As the world is tearing itself apart, there are those few fantastic human beings who still believe there is good in people. They know that by somehow finding a charitable spirit, our cold hearts will melt. Such is Paul Howard’s documentary, A Pebble in the Pond — the story of the century-old Assistance League.
The film is hosted by Ann Benson, the creator of the Ann Asks docuseries. Our story opens at the Operation School Bell event just outside the gates of Universal Studios. Hundreds of students are given everything they need to start the school year right at this event — a set of new clothes, shoes, a backpack, and school supplies. It’s all free to anyone in need. Benson then interviewers several children, parents, and volunteers about the services of Operation School Bell and its parent organization, the Assistance League.
Then A Pebble in the Pond goes into an animated history of the Assistance League and its founder Anne Banning. The League’s origins began 125 years ago when the famed San Francisco Earthquake hit Northern California. Hundreds died, and thousands were left homeless. Banning was one of the world’s leading philanthropists at the time and came to the physical aid of those in need. His, and the Assistance League’s, mission was to provide humanitarian aid regardless of race, religion, culture, or class. Banning would then come to the support of the Red Cross once World War I broke out, and during the golden years of Hollywood, the Assistance League offered inexpensive childcare for women in the industry.
“…everything they need to start the school year right at this event — a set of new clothes, shoes, a backpack, and school supplies.”
Today, the charitable reach of the Assistance League seems to know no bounds, with over a hundred chapters across the United States. Yet, A Pebble in the Pond gives us just a mere glimpse into the Assistance League’s charitableness. For example, in some cities, chapters provide low-cost orthodontics for students who can’t qualify through their state insurance coverage. Many offer free books to anxious learners, an extensive puppet workshop for young children, prom dresses for homeless teen girls, and even assault survival kits for women traumatized by sexual assault.
The film feels like your typical human-interest story that you’d see on your local news outlet, but this is anything but. Benson and Howard understand the art of documentary storytelling. Running a hefty one hour and forty-five minutes, the picture moves quickly and is one heartfelt story after another about the women who run the Assistance League. The recipients of the League’s goodness have nothing but praise and testimony for them coming in at the right time in their lives. But it’s the volunteers that make this all possible by staffing each program, fundraising, and running the League’s side projects like the thrift store.
Serving others takes great sacrifice, but the rewards one reaps are great, though intangible. Host Ann Benson radiates the right amount of positivity. Paul Howard’s A Pebble in the Pond will inspire you to help others when it’s over.
For screening information, visit the A Pebble in the Pond official website.