Our Chapter History

Assistance League of San Luis Obispo County was incorporated in 1991 and chartered as the 95th chapter of National Assistance League in 1996. Operation School Bell was adopted in 1995 as its philanthropic program. Operation School Bell provides a most basic need - clothing. Since 1995 more than 24,000 students from low-income families have been provided with school appropriate clothing in San Luis Obispo County.

We are an all-volunteer organization with 140 member volunteers and no paid staff. We have been able to successfully administer, staff and fund our program for 22 years. In 1995, our first year of Operation School Bell, we clothed 100 children. Each successive year, through budgeting and working with purpose and determination, we have clothed more and more students through our primary philanthropic program, Operation School Bell.

Our National History

Assistance League was the first nonprofit, nonpolitical, nonsectarian organization founded in the West to recognize the potential of volunteers in helping those less fortunate to a better, more meaningful life. Today, chapters across America address the emotional and physical needs of children and adults of all ages regardless of race or creed.

Our founder, Anne Banning, was born Anne Ophelia Smith in 1871 in Los Angeles. In 1890, she married Hancock Banning, son of Los Angeles pioneer Phineas Banning. Co-founder, Ada Edwards Laughlin was born in 1873 in Indianapolis, Indiana. Her family moved to northern California when she was 17 and she attended Stanford University. She taught school before her marriage in 1904 to Homer Laughlin Jr. They lived in Los Angeles and met Anne and Hancock through the Los Angeles social scene.

Anne Banning was a member of a small group of prominent Los Angeles ladies who did local charitable work beginning in the mid 1890's, calling it Assistance League. In April 1906, the women of Assistance League responded to the San Francisco earthquake and fire by collecting money and sewing clothes. The next year, the newspaper reported the ladies "wished to be a permanent organization and be of assistance to everyone who needs it." As America entered the war in Europe, Anne Banning organized the Los Angeles Red Cross unit in 1917 and served as Director. Its fundraising unit was the Red Cross Shop, which became the model for Red Cross shops across the country, using Anne Banning's printed guidelines.

In 1919, Anne Banning and a group of twelve friends, including Ada Edwards Laughlin, formed Assistance League of Southern California to provide food and clothing for local families severely impacted by World War I. A bungalow in Hollywood was purchased as the community house in 1923. The first services were Good Samaritan, Day Nursery, Girls' Club and Theatre for Children. Film Location Bureau, Attic Tearoom, Women's Exchange and Trousseau Shop provided the revenue. Originating between 1920 and 1930, these were pioneer services emulated by both public and private agencies.

As needs in adjoining communities were recognized, other organizations wished to follow this philanthropic philosophy. Anne Banning and Ada Laughlin organized National Assistance League® in 1935 to promote the growth of effective volunteerism through leadership training and education. By the time Anne and Ada retired in 1948, there were chapters in San Pedro, Santa Ana, Santa Monica, Long Beach, Pasadena, Glendale, Pomona Valley, San Bernardino and Santa Barbara. Anne Banning felt it was fine to serve youth, but important for youth to serve. Informal girl groups began in the 1930's and were consolidated in 1944. Shirley Temple was a member of the Beverly Thrifties who supported the thrift shop. In 1959, guidelines were prepared for auxiliaries of members under the age of twenty-one and in 1961, all teenage auxiliaries were given the name "Assisteens®."

Lois Hunt and Shirley Temple

Through the gift of service to their communities, Assistance League chapters continue to fulfill Anne Banning's philosophy of volunteer service: "To act as a friend at any and all times to men, women and children in need of care, guidance and assistance, spiritually, materially and physically." Today, Assistance League is a national nonprofit organization that puts caring and commitment into action through community-based philanthropic programs.

Click Here to Log In


Click here for our
Donor Privacy Policy

Help us help others.
Make a donation online.

Operation School Bell®
Click Here to learn more.

Contact Us


Assistance League of
San Luis Obispo County
P.O. Box 14260
San Luis Obispo, CA 93406

Phone: 805-782-0824

School Personnel /
Liaison Information:

We are a 501(c)(3)
Nonprofit Organization
Tax Id#77-0337378