Rising Ground Documentary

A 190 year history chronicled in 22 minutes

Rising Ground is a leading nonprofit human services organization that provides children, adults, and families in the greater New York City area with the resources and skills needed to help them rise above adversity and positively direct their lives. Originally founded as the Leake & Watts Orphan House, this year is the 190th anniversary of Rising Ground. The organization wanted to develop an inspirational video that covered the many years of the organization’s service through the Civil War, World Wars I and II, two pandemics and more up to the present day. Go Gladys was chosen to ideate and produce this video.

Capturing decades of social service and justice

The purpose of the video was to tell the story of how Rising Ground has continuously evolved from the early days when there were thousands of orphans living on New York City streets through its evolution to its present status at the forefront of community needs. Today, the organization is a positive force in the lives of more than 25,000 individuals annually.

Creating a visual history when little primary source material is available

When an organization is as long established as this one, it was necessary to find the means to tell the story with very little archival footage. Fortunately the New York Historical Society and the Westchester county Archives had remarkable imagery and documents for Leake & Watts/Rising Ground that helped create a realistic picture of the earliest days of the organization, a time when New York City was very different from today.

Recreating alumni stories to demonstrate positive impacts

Weaving the video together were stories by alumni that demonstrated how Rising Ground had positively impacted men and women through time. The resulting 22 minute film was powerful and emotive, showing how lives were changed as a result of the organization’s existence and its commitment to youth and families. Stories included that of Adele Ross, whose home was blighted by domestic violence and in 1928 she was cared for during a formative period of her life and ultimately returned to live with her mother.

Another tale was of Carolyn Paige Henry, who learned to succeed at Rising Ground, earning a full scholarship to Howard University. She became an influential teacher for 37 years and became an author. Most recently Geidi’s story was told, that of a young woman, an undocumented migrant, who has earned her high school diploma and is now attending college, thanks to Rising Ground’s Passages of Opportunity program.

How to make “video without video”

Rising Ground’s “190 Years of Hope & Opportunity,” is a compelling example of what we call “video without video,” where Go Gladys has told a powerful story without having the opportunity to film any footage at all. Engaging voiceovers and music are an enhancement, but as you can see, it is the power of the storytelling that creates a stirring piece of social realism.

Our first video to receive a New York City premiere!

Part of the reason that Rising Ground wished to create an anniversary video was to fit it into a year-long celebration of the organization’s history. Having undergone a name change three years prior to the anniversary, it was designed to carefully document the progression from it’s earliest beginnings to the present day and highlight the accomplishments in that period. To underscore the importance of the video within a communications and advancement strategy, it was given a full-on premiere in a prestigious New York City location. The audience was both impressed and moved and the program included the appearance of Carolyn Henry, a distinguished alumna whose story appears in the film. Our client’s reaction matched that of the audience.

“Go Gladys™ took on the complex challenge of telling 190 years of our non-profit organization’s history in a 22-minute video that needed to be strong enough to merit a premiere at the Director’s Guild Theater in New York City. It also had to be used in different configurations on Social Media, our website, and in segments at our 190th Anniversary Gala. Go Gladys successfully realized our conception in a dramatic, emotional, and richly satisfying video. It was a powerful partnership – that continues to pay off.”

– H. Aldervan Daly, Executive Vice President for Institutional Advancement, Rising Ground, Inc.