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
National President Michael King
Slogan Helping America's most vulnerable™
Website http://www.volunteersofamerica.org/

Volunteers of America is a faith-based nonprofit organization that provides affordable housing and other assistance services primarily to low-income people throughout the United States. Headquartered in Alexandria, Virginia, the organization includes 36 affiliates providing services in approximately 400 communities in 46 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

In 2010, the organization served more than 2 million people each year.[1] Services help people in need of affordable housing, veterans, low-income seniors, children and families, the homeless, those with intellectual disabilities, those recovering from addiction and the incarcerated.


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.[2] 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 God’s American Volunteers, which soon was changed to Volunteers of America.

In the early 1900s, the Volunteers 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.[3] 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.[4]

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.

In the 1970s, the organization emerged as a major provider of professional long-term nursing care. Volunteers of America not only offers home health care and related services, but owns and operates several nursing facilities, and assisted and independent living residences.

Since 1902 VOA held a Sidewalk Santa parade up Fifth Avenue in Manhattan as part of their fundraising efforts supporting its Hope & Hearth food voucher program. It was recently announced that VOA will discontinue the Sidewark Santa parade.[5]

Today, Volunteers of America is ranked among the largest charities in the United States by The NonProfit Times,[6] The Chronicle of Philanthropy[7] and Forbes among other publications, with annual revenue of approximately $900 million in 2008. 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.

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” because they volunteered their lives to help people in need in the U.S. This included not only volunteering their time, but also their hearts, their spirits and their professional prosperity.

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 incarcerated, and people recovering from substance abuse. 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 16,000 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, Va., and 46 locally operated offices. This decentralized structure allows Volunteers of America to tailor its programs to the individual needs of local communities.

Volunteer Prison League[edit]

One of the earliest and most successful actives of the Volunteers of America was its Volunteer Prison League, established in 1895 by Mrs. Ballington Booth. By 1906 this group was established at 26 penal institutions and had 60,000 members. By correspondence, visits and speeches the convicts and their families were kept in touch with one another for their "moral and spiritual betterment". The League also established "Hope Halls" for released convicts at Flushing, New York, Dodge, Iowa and Chicago, Illinois. Seventy six of the people who went through these homes were said to have "done well".[8]

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.


Volunteers of America is one of the largest nonprofit developers and providers of affordable housing in the United States, with more than 320 affordable housing properties in 38 states and Puerto Rico. The organization owns and/or manages more than 16,000 affordable housing units that provide homes to nearly 25,000 people each year.

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 the largest nonprofit recipient of funding from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to build housing for seniors and the disabled.

Affordable Housing Finance magazine rates Volunteers of America as the top nonprofit in its “Top 50 Affordable Housing Owners,”[9] and also ranked the organization in the “Top 50 Affordable Housing Developers”[10] and “Top 10 Companies Completing Acquisitions.”[11] 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.

Volunteers of America is a national provider of shelter and services for homeless people, 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. 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.


In 2010, Volunteers of America served approximately 7,700 homeless veterans in 35 programs nationwide. Services offered by the organization for homeless veterans include service centers, transitional housing, mental health counseling, substance abuse treatment and employment training.

Volunteers of America was the leading recipient of grants from U.S. Department of Labor’s Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program in June 2009.[12] The grants will be used to provide education and job training to homeless veterans. Volunteers of America offices in several cities also organize local “Stand Down” events with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs aimed at helping homeless veterans to access housing and services.

Children, youth and families[edit]

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.

Full-time residential settings for people with intellectual disabilities range from single-person apartment settings to group homes, which primarily serve three or four people in a home. All of these homes are located in communities, close to family members and friends. Each supportive living residence is licensed and certified through state agencies and operates under Medicaid guidelines.

Volunteers of America also provides in-home support services to children and adults who live with their families, as well as to adults who live independently. These services are ongoing and are delivered according to individual support plans. Recreational outings, assistance with personal care, money management and employment are among the services offered adults through in-home support services.

Substance abuse treatment[edit]

Volunteers of America is a leader in treating substance abuse and addiction, and offers a variety of support services and residential treatment options to assist adolescents, adults and their families to overcome addiction. Services, which vary by city and local office, include detoxification, intensive outpatient services and residential treatment.

National partnerships[edit]

Major League Baseball Players Association’s Players Trust[edit]

Since 2002, Volunteers of America has partnered with the Major League Baseball Players Trust [6], the philanthropic arm of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Starting in 2003, the central focus of this partnership has been the Action Teams program, a national youth volunteer initiative to motivate high school students to organize community service projects and enlist fellow students to volunteer.

As of 2009, 19,000 high school volunteers have helped more than 90,000 people in their communities as part of the Action Team program. Teens work through their local school districts to recruit other teens to volunteer in projects developed by Volunteers of America’s local offices.[13]

Other elements of the partnership include funding for Volunteers of America programs, as well as hands-on support and public appearances by players to raise awareness for issues affecting children and families. Players also participate in Volunteers of America’s national and local public service announcements urging the public to volunteer for charitable causes in their communities.

The partnership has helped to provide direct services to Volunteers of America local offices such as affordable day care, safe playground equipment, dental and health services, and before- and after-school programs for thousands of children, as well as short-term assistance and long-term support for rebuilding efforts in the Gulf Region following Hurricane Katrina.


Since 1999, Volunteers of America has participated as a national partner in the Scholastic Book Grants[14] program, distributing over 1,833,000 books throughout 27 states.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Inside This Section. "About Us". Voa.org. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  2. ^ "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 
  3. ^ 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
  4. ^ [1] Archived March 13, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ Volunteers Of America Retires Sidewalk Santa Parade After More Than 100 Years Parade Has Been Holiday Tradition Since 1902 CBS 2 News New York, November 25, 2013 http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2013/11/25/volunteers-of-america-retires-sidewalk-santa-parade-after-more-than-100-years/ Accessed November 26, 2013
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ [3] Archived January 2, 2010, at the Wayback Machine.
  8. ^ The new encyclopedia of social reform; p.1259
  9. ^ "2009 AHF 50 Owners" (PDF). Housing Finance. 2009-04-04. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  10. ^ [4] Archived December 4, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  11. ^ [5] Archived May 17, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  12. ^ "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. 
  13. ^ "Major League Baseball Players Association: Action Teams". Mlbplayers.mlb.com. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 
  14. ^ "About Scholastic | Scholastic Book Grants". Scholastic.com. Retrieved 2013-10-25. 

External links[edit]