Volunteers of America

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Volunteers of America
Founded 1896
Founders Ballington Booth, Maud Booth
Type Faith-based Charity
Area served
United States, Puerto Rico
Key people
President and CEO Michael King
Slogan Helping America's most vulnerable™
Website http://www.volunteersofamerica.org/

Volunteers of America (VOA) is a faith-based nonprofit organization founded in 1896 that provides affordable housing and other assistance services primarily to low-income people throughout the United States. Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, the organization includes 32 affiliates and serves approximately 1.4 million people each year in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.[1]

In addition to those in need of affordable housing, VOA assists veterans, low-income seniors, children and families, the homeless, those with intellectual disabilities, those recovering from addiction, and the formerly incarcerated.[2]


Volunteers of America was founded on March 8, 1896 by social reformers Ballington Booth and his wife Maud Booth in Cooper Union's Great Hall.[3] Ballington Booth was the son of General William Booth, founder of The Salvation Army, and the couple served as officers with the Army in Great Britain.

The Booths first moved to New York in the 1890s to assume command of The Salvation Army forces in the United States. The couple was successful in bolstering the image of The Salvation Army in America and in growing the movement’s social work mission. After disagreements with other Salvation Army leaders, including Ballington Booth’s brother Bramwell Booth, the Booths left the organization and established Volunteers of America.[4]

In the early 1900s, the organization began an expansive philanthropic program that included employment bureaus, co-operative stores, medical dispensaries, distribution of clothes, women's sewing classes, Thanksgiving meals, reading rooms, fresh air camps and other establishments.[5] During the advent of the Great Depression in the 1930s, Volunteers of America mobilized to assist the millions of people who were unemployed, hungry and homeless. Relief efforts included employment bureaus, wood yards, soup kitchens and “Penny Pantries” where every food item cost one cent.[6]

By the 1960s, Volunteers of America was well known for its thrift stores and annual fundraising efforts like the Sidewalk Santa campaign in New York City. In an effort to modernize its programs, the organization began to focus its work in the area of housing for the poor following the establishment of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.[7]

In the 1970s, the organization emerged as a major provider of professional long-term nursing care. Today, Volunteers of America offers home health care and related services, and owns and operates several nursing facilities, and assisted and independent living residences.[8]

Volunteers of America is ranked among the largest charities in the United States by The NonProfit Times,[9] The Chronicle of Philanthropy[10] and Forbes among other publications, with annual revenue of more than $1 billion in 2015. The organization is one of the largest nonprofit providers of affordable housing for the elderly, low-income families and people with intellectual or physical disabilities in the United States.[11]

Origin of the name 'Volunteers of America'[edit]

When Volunteers of America was founded in 1896, volunteerism in the modern sense of the word did not exist. To “volunteer” at that time meant serving others as a full-time vocation. Early members of the organization came to call themselves the “Volunteers of America” to differentiate themselves from The Salvation Army as an organization by Americans, for Americans.[12]

Service areas[edit]

Volunteers of America administers a diverse number of services for people in need, including low-income seniors, families and children, veterans, the homeless, those with intellectual disabilities, the formerly incarcerated, and people recovering from substance abuse.[13] These services are tailored specifically to the needs of the local communities where Volunteers of America works and can vary widely from city to city. Not all services are available in all locations, and Volunteers of America local offices, which are individually incorporated, assess local needs and tailor programs accordingly.

Volunteers of America has more than 15,000 paid employees. The majority of these staff members are trained professionals who provide direct services to clients. The organization includes a national office located in Alexandria, Virginia, and 32 locally operated offices.[14]

Aging and seniors[edit]

Care for seniors has been a part of Volunteers of America’s mission since the 1890s. The organization is one of the nation’s largest nonprofit providers of affordable housing for seniors and a major provider of professional long-term care, including assisted living, home health care and nursing home care. Support services include senior centers, transportation, intergenerational programs, information and referral services, protective services, Meals On Wheels programs and handyman repair services.[15]


Volunteers of America is one of the largest nonprofit developers and providers of affordable housing in the United States, with almost 500 affordable housing properties in 40 states and Puerto Rico. The organization owns and/or manages more than 19,000 affordable housing units that provide homes to nearly 25,000 people each year.[16]

In addition, Volunteers of America is one of the largest nonprofit providers of affordable senior housing, including skilled nursing care and assisted living for seniors. The organization is a major recipient of funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to build housing for seniors and the disabled.[17]

Affordable Housing Finance magazine rates Volunteers of America as the top nonprofit in its “Top 50 Affordable Housing Owners,”[18] and also ranked the organization in the “Top 50 Affordable Housing Developers”[19] and “Top 10 Companies Completing Acquisitions.”[20] The magazine also selected a Volunteers of America multifamily community, Lord Tennyson outside San Francisco, as the “best of the best” affordable housing project in the country for 2007.[21]

Volunteers of America is a national provider of shelter and services for people experiencing homelessness, ranging from emergency shelters to transitional housing and placement in permanent homes. As one of the largest recipients of federal homeless assistance grants, Volunteers of America reaches out to homeless people in many cities through street outreach and mobile outreach services.[22] The organization also provides services to help the formerly homeless return to self-sufficiency — providing assistance that ranges from paying a first month’s rent to offering permanent supportive housing, empowering people with disabilities to become stable and productive members of their communities.[23]


In 2010, Volunteers of America served approximately 40,000[24] homeless veterans in 46 cities in 20 states. Services offered by the organization for homeless veterans include service centers, transitional housing, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and employment training.[25]

Volunteers of America was the leading recipient of grants from U.S. Department of Labor’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program in June 2009.[26] The grants will be used to provide education and job training to homeless veterans. Volunteers of America offices in several cities also help organize local “Stand Down” events with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs aimed at helping homeless veterans to access housing and services.[27]

Children, youth and families[edit]

Volunteers of America provides a wide variety of services to children, youth, and families. These include child care, Head Start, and early literacy programs, parenting classes, respite care, and delinquency prevention programs. Since 1999, Volunteers of America has also participated in the Scholastic Book Grants program, which provides high quality reading materials to needy children. Crisis intervention for families includes foster and adoption services, reunification programs, and outreach to runaways and homeless youth.[28] [29] In 2017, Volunteers of America has donated a backpack to every student living in New York City shelters, resulting in the donation of over 140,000 backpacks over 14 years.[30]

Intellectual disabilities[edit]

Volunteers of America serves thousands of individuals with disabilities across the nation with specialized programs for mental retardation, autism, age-related problems and other challenges. Services include in-home support, case management, day programs and supportive employment, specialized residential services and supported living.[31]

Formerly incarcerated re-entry services[edit]

Volunteers of America works to help those formerly incarcerated transition back into productive life in the community through a variety of services including halfway houses and work-release programs, day reporting, diversion and pre-trial services, residential treatment, family supports, and dispute resolution and mediation services. [32]

Substance abuse treatment[edit]

Volunteers of America offers treatment for substance abuse and addiction, as well as support services and residential treatment options to assist adolescents, adults, and their families to overcome addiction.[33] Services, which vary by city and local office, include detoxification, intensive outpatient services and residential treatment.


On the national level, Volunteers of America is an interdenominational Christian ministry. The ministry describes itself as “a church without walls” called to serve all people in the community and lists the following Principles of Faith: • We are diverse individuals, drawn together as a ministry of service. • We are one church without walls. • We believe God's love is revealed to us through the teachings of Jesus Christ. • We believe that when serving the most vulnerable, an authentic spiritual transformation happens—for both giver and receiver. • We believe in God's boundless grace and mercy. We believe that every individual deserves to be lifted up to the glory of God.[34]

Volunteers of America’s Northern California & Northern Nevada affiliate states on its website, “Though we are an organization founded on Christian values, our programs and employment opportunities are available to all people, without regard to religion, race, color, creed, sex, marital status, physical or mental disability, age, national origin or ancestry, sexual orientation, or any other consideration made unlawful by federal, state or local laws.”[35]


  1. ^ "About Us". Volunteers of America. Volunteers of America. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  2. ^ "About Us". Volunteers of America. Volunteers of America. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  3. ^ "Volunteers of America/About Us/Our History". Retrieved 1 February 2013. On March 8, 1896, Ballington Booth, the tall, handsome son of the Salvation Army founders, and his wife, Maud Charlesworth Booth, the refined daughter of an Anglican rector, made a bold announcement. In the Great Hall of New York City's Cooper Union, they pronounced to a crowd of thousands the birth of a new organization dedicated to serving the spiritual and material needs of the poor and disadvantaged-Volunteers of America 
  4. ^ "Volunteers of America". The Social Welfare History Project. Virginia Commonwealth University Libraries. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  5. ^ The new encyclopedia of social reform, including all social-reform movements and activities, and the economic, industrial, and sociological facts and statistics of all countries and all social subjects; William Dwight Porter Bliss 1856-1926; Rudolph Michael Binder 1865- ; eds. New York, Funk and Wagnalls Company 1908 p.1259
  6. ^ [1] Archived March 13, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. ^ No Limits to Caring. 1996. p. 119. ISBN 1-885287-03-8. 
  8. ^ "Find Senior Care". Volunteers of America. Volunteers of America. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  9. ^ "The 2016 NPT Top 100" (PDF). The Nonprofit Times. The Nonprofit Times. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  10. ^ [2] Archived January 2, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ "Affordable Housing Finance". HousingFinance.com. Affordable Housing Finance. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  12. ^ Wisbey, Herbert A. Jr. (1994). Volunteers of America: 1896-1948 Era of the Founders. ISBN 1-885287-00-3. 
  13. ^ "Services We Provide". Volunteers of America. Volunteers of America. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  14. ^ "Local Office Directory". Volunteers of America. Volunteers of America. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  15. ^ "Older Adults". Volunteers of America. Volunteers of America. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  16. ^ Affordable Housing Finance. Affordable Housing Finance http://www.housingfinance.com/management-operations/top-50-affordable-housing-owners-of-2016_o. Retrieved 8 May 2017.  Missing or empty |title= (help)
  17. ^ "Statement of Ms. Robin Keller, Vice President, Affordable Housing Development, Volunteers of America, Inc" (PDF). Financialservices.house.gov. American Association of Homes and Services for the Aging. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  18. ^ "2009 AHF 50 Owners" (PDF). Housing Finance. 2009-04-04. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  19. ^ [3] Archived December 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  20. ^ [4] Archived May 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  21. ^ "Best Overall Project: Lord Tennyson Solves Preservation Puzzle". Affordable Housing Finance. Affordable Housing Finance. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  22. ^ Bates, Michelle. "Volunteers of America Outreach goes mobile, high tech". Minden Press-Herald. Minden Press-Herald. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  23. ^ "Homeless People". Volunteers of America. Volunteers of America. Retrieved 8 May 2017. 
  24. ^ "Partnership with Sodexo Creates Professional Development Training Series for Veterans". Volunteers of America. Volunteers of America. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  25. ^ "Veterans and their Families". Volunteers of America. Volunteers of America. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  26. ^ "VETS News Release: Approximately 15,000 veterans to benefit from more than $25 million in U.S. Department of Labor job training grants [06/29/2009]". Dol.gov. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  27. ^ Marshall, Karla. "Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System". U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  28. ^ "Chicago Agency Has Many Children Needing Homes – Register for Parent Recruitment Event". Let It Be Us. Let It Be Us. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  29. ^ Cortez, Marjorie. "Volunteers of America-Utah's homeless youth resource center inching closer to reality". Deseret News Utah. Deseret News. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  30. ^ Gioino, Catherina (August 6, 2017). "Mom's 'Operation Backpack' gets school supplies to thousands of homeless NYC students". New York Daily News. Retrieved October 20, 2017.
  31. ^ "People with Disabilities". Volunteers of America. Volunteers of America. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  32. ^ "Correctional Re-entry Services". Volunteers of America. Volunteers of America. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  33. ^ "Substance Abuse". Volunteers of America. Volunteers of America. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  34. ^ "Our Ministry of Service". Volunteers of America. Volunteers of America. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 
  35. ^ "FAQs". VOA-Northern California and Northern Nevada. Volunteers of America. Retrieved 9 May 2017. 

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