Founders Week Facts
Volunteers of America quick reference guide
Volunteers of America Facts & Figures
Founded March 8, 1896
Employees More than 16,000
People Served More than 2 million
Volunteers of America's combined revenues in fiscal year 2014 were more than $1.17 billion for its programs to help those in need.
Volunteers of America is the charity that always steps forward to help the most vulnerable. For 120 years, we have taken on the most difficult tasks to help the most underserved.
Through hundreds of human service programs, including housing and health care, Volunteers of America helps more than 2 million people in more than 400 communities. Since 1896, our ministry of service has supported and empowered America's most vulnerable groups, including veterans, seniors, people with disabilities, at-risk youth, men and women returning from prison, homeless individuals and families, those recovering from addictions and many others. Our work touches the mind, body, heart – and ultimately the spirit – of those we serve, integrating our deep compassion with highly effective programs and services.
In addition to its many diverse services, Volunteers of America is one of the nation's largest nonprofit providers of quality affordable housing. The organization is also a major provider of skilled nursing care and health services. Volunteers of America operates senior living and care communities that offer independent and assisted living, as well as memory support. Volunteers of America is committed to providing these services to growing numbers of people in need in the future.
Volunteers of America was founded by Christian social reformers Ballington and Maud Booth as a movement to "reach and uplift" the American people.
Programs & Services
Volunteers of America is one of the nation's most comprehensive human services charities, offering programs for individuals, families and communities. In fiscal year 2014, Volunteers of America had total combined revenues of more than $1.17 billion and served more than 2 million people through the following service categories:
Assistance with Basic Needs
We help individuals and families overcome personal challenges to lead productive, healthy lives. Our approaches to intervention, rehabilitation and prevention work together to ensure that people in crisis don't stay that way. During personal hardships and emergencies, we address immediate needs, offer long-term support when necessary and educate with prevention outreach programs.
For more than 100 years, we have pioneered community-based, high-quality, integrated models of care and services that strive to meet the needs of the whole person, family and community. We provide innovative, results-driven Behavioral Health Services to assist those with mental health issues, substance abuse issues and those with intellectual or developmental disabilities.
Children, Youth and Families
Volunteers of America provides high-quality, innovative services for disadvantaged and disconnected children and youth. Through our caring staff and dedicated volunteers, we ensure the social, emotional and academic development of young children, and empower older youth to be physically, emotionally and mentally healthy and ready to enter adulthood.
Every day, individuals and families who are at risk of homelessness, hunger and other life crises in our communities go unnoticed by society at large. But we notice, and offer a variety of community programs including information and referral, food and prepared meals, thrift stores, and collaborations with the faith community.
We provide services to help offenders successfully transition from prison to a productive life in the community. We help rehabilitate adult offenders and steer youth to establish new, positive directions for their lives. Our services include halfway houses, work-release programs, day reporting, diversion and pre-trial services, residential treatment, family supports, dispute resolution, and mediation services.
Volunteers of America works to prevent and end homelessness through a range of support services including eviction prevention, emergency services, transitional housing and permanent affordable housing. Once we engage homeless individuals, including youth and families with children, we stay with them for as long as it takes to return them to self-sufficiency.
As one of the nation's largest nonprofit providers of quality, affordable housing for low- and moderate-income households, we create and manage housing for the homeless, families with children, the elderly, and people with disabilities, including physical and mental disabilities and veterans and their families.
We help people with chronic or severe mental illnesses successfully manage their lives through crisis counseling and "hotline" programs, case management, day programs and drop-in centers, transportation, residential care and supported independent living.
Our services and programs promote health and independence for the elderly. We encourage seniors to be active and healthy through a host of support services. We provide senior centers and day programs, home repair and homemaker services, information and referral, Meals On Wheels, and group meal programs. We also provide transportation, companion services, protection against abuse and neglect, and case management services.
People with Disabilities
We serve thousands of individuals with disabilities across the nation with specialized programs for autism, age-related problems and other challenges. Our services include in-home support, case management, day programs and supportive employment, specialized residential services, host homes or foster care, and supported living.
Senior Living and Care Communities
We are a major provider of professional long-term nursing care for seniors and others coping with illness or injury. We offer a continuum of services that extends to the elderly and disabled people requiring long-term health support, including nursing care, assisted living, memory care, home health care, rehabilitation and much more.
We work to prevent and eliminate substance abuse through residential and outpatient services, from prevention to treatment to long-term support.
Since World War I, Volunteers of America has provided direct services to veterans and connected them to other organizations that can help. Our support helps veterans overcome the barriers that stand between them and a stable, secure life. We provide housing, employment training, emergency shelter and much more.
"The Lord My Banner" was Volunteers of America's first motto.
Maud Booth's maiden name was Maud Elizabeth Charlesworth.
The Booths' daughter's name was Theodora.
Volunteers of America's first headquarters were a few rooms at the Bible House on the corner of Fourth Avenue and 8th Street in Manhattan.
Volunteers of America's national headquarters was located in New York, N.Y., from 1896 to 1979, when it was moved to Mandeville, La., near New Orleans. It moved to Alexandria, Va., in 1996.
Volunteers of America has provided services directly aimed at returning war veterans since the end of World War I (we served veterans from the start, including those from the Civil War).
Volunteers of America began operating in prisons in 1898 with the first being a 42-bed facility near St. Paul, Minn.
Volunteers of America spearheaded community salvage drives during World War II, collecting millions of pounds of scrap metal, rubber and fiber for the war effort.
The title track of Jefferson Airplane's 1969 album Volunteers was inspired by the lead singer being awoken by a Volunteers of America truck picking up furniture. The song and the album was originally going to be called Volunteers of America, but the threat of a lawsuit by the organization caused the music label, RCA, to insist the band settle on Volunteers.
Two first ladies have been presented by Volunteers of America with its Booth Award. Lady Bird Johnson received the award in 1963 for her efforts to beautify America and Nancy Reagan received the award in 1987.
In 2003, former President George H.W. Bush honored Volunteers of America with the Points of Light "Extra Mile" award, including a sidewalk marker featuring Maud and Ballington Booth in downtown Washington, D.C. Some of the first recipients of this award were Edgar J. Helms, founder of Goodwill Industries; Clara Barton, who began the American Red Cross; Martin Luther King, Jr., leader of the African-American civil rights movement; Susan B. Anthony, a leading advocate for women's suffrage; Millard and Linda Fuller, founders of Habitat for Humanity International; and Eunice Kennedy Shriver, who established Special Olympics.
More than 25,000 people nationwide live in Volunteers of America affordable housing.
120th Anniversary Video
In recognition of Volunteers of America's 120th anniversary, we have produced a special commemorative video of use as part of anniversary celebration and acknowledgements:
To access our online photo gallery, including a variety of photos of the Booths and historical photos of Volunteers of America programs over the years, follow the following link:
The national office website also includes a history section with a timeline for the organization located at:
A Brief History of Maud and Ballington Booth
Founders of Volunteers of America
Excerpted from American Heritage Volume 47, Number 1 February/March 1996
"For God and Country…"
by Diane Winston
The year is 1896. Responding to dire social needs and a growing American patriotism, a new movement is founded at a mass rally in New York. It's called "Volunteers of America."
The 100-year record of Volunteers of America merits a special chapter in the social and religious history of the United States. It is also the story of a remarkable couple, co-founders Ballington and Maud Booth, united for 50 years in love and service, and a vision to "reach and uplift the American people."
Though technological marvels seem to separate today's men and women from their 19th-century counterparts, the fundamental question remains the same: How can we spread justice and compassion amidst so much poverty and pain? In 1896, Maud and Ballington Booth proposed an answer: "We will go wherever we are needed and do whatever comes to hand."
The Booths, formerly commanders of the Salvation Army, organized Volunteers of America to spread the gospel message through "practical religion." Tied to the Booths' vision of salvation was a keen desire to provide material relief. The early Volunteers nursed the sick, fed the hungry, sheltered the homeless, and visited those in prison.
In the Beginning
He was the tall, handsome son of the controversial founder of the Salvation Army. She was the petite, refined daughter of a proper Anglican rector. Her father forbade them to marry, and his father performed the ceremony. From the start, Maud and Ballington Booth were bound for a special destiny, one that culminated in 1896 with the founding of Volunteers of America.
The British-born Maud Charlesworth and Ballington Booth first met at a worship service of the Salvation Army, an evangelical movement started in London in 1865 by Ballington's parents, William and Catherine Booth. At a time when Britain's underclass was growing, the Army's aim was to save the urban masses who were indifferent to organized religion. Both Maud and Ballington were devoted to the Army's dual purpose of spiritual and social salvation. In 1887, when William Booth sent them to head the American branch, they were thrilled by the challenge of uniting rich and poor in a mission to save souls and redeem society. They arrived in a nation just recovering from a grave financial depression and wracked by labor unrest. Cities were teeming with problems: in New York alone, 1 million people were packed in tenement houses, 14,000 were homeless, and thousands more went hungry every night.
In their nine years as Salvation Army national commanders, Maud and Ballington Booth increased the Army's outreach among the poor and improved its standing among elite's who had initially dismissed the movement for its brass bands and street preaching-hallmark of the rough and sensational form of Christianity.
Then, in 1896, the Army's London headquarters ordered the Booths to leave their American post. Instead, they resigned. The reasons for the rift were many. William Booth had accused his son of letting the Army become "too American." Ballington resented both his father's autocratic control and his insistence upon using contributions from American donors to fund Salvationist work around the British Empire. The affair was front-page news. It occurred during a crisis in Anglo-American relations, when we almost went to war defending the Monroe Doctrine against the threat of British military intervention in Venezuela.
On March 8, 1896, addressing a huge rally in the Great Hall at Cooper Union in New York City, Maud and Ballington announced they were starting a new movement, at first called God's American Volunteers. Like the Salvation Army, it was organized on a military model with ranks, uniforms, and marching bands. But the new movement was to be more democratic in structure. Leaders were elected by vote of the membership, and women officers had full equality with men.
The organization's style was unabashedly patriotic. At the Cooper Union meeting, the crowd stood and sang a brand-new anthem called "America the Beautiful," cheering at the finale. They left the hall to carry on under the slogan "For God and Country."
While the top priority was spiritual, the first line of action was practical. The Volunteers literally went wherever they were needed. They lived in tenement houses, serving the poor and setting up day nurseries. They started summer camps for city children, opened housing for working men and women, and established free hospitals for the poor.
Maud Booth herself began a pioneer social work program, the Volunteer Prison League, which, in addition to supporting prisoners and their families, helped ex-convicts adjust to society. Among her innovations were halfway houses, called Hope Halls, for discharged prisoners without jobs or families. Dubbed "Little Mother of the Prisons," Maud Booth believed that men who repented of their crimes deserved help. An enlightened reformer, she brought their plight to the attention of the American public, campaigning against corporal punishment, prolonged solitary confinement, and other abuses in the prison system.
While it served those in need, Volunteers of America consciously engaged the wealthy and powerful in its mission. Ballington Booth's personal address book was filled with names from the business, political, and social elite: Theodore Roosevelt, William Jennings Bryan, Bernard Baruch, John D. Rockefeller, and John Wanamaker, to name a few. Influential friends were organized in national and local societies called Defender's Leagues. Private giving from these supporters was the main source of funds in this era before government support of human services.
The Volunteers of America story is intimately linked to American life in the 20th century, especially in times of national crisis. During the two World Wars, the organization served "on the home front," operating canteens for soldiers and sailors on leave, providing low-cost housing for defense plant workers, and collecting thousands of tons of scrap metal, rubber, and fiber in huge nationwide salvage drives.
The Great Depression of the 1930s strained America's private charity system to the breaking point. Volunteers of America organized soup kitchens and "penny pantries," where no food item cost more than a cent. By 1936, the organization had provided some 25 million meals, 3.8 million nights' lodging, and 1.7 million articles of clothing—all free. Jobs were found for 417,000 of the nation's unemployed.
One Hundred Years Later
Today's Volunteers of America, like those who preceded them, come from all walks of life. They are blue-collar workers and executives, housewives and professionals, college students and retirees. Some are clergy, many are lay people. Protestants, Catholics, and Jews work side by side, united by the belief that they can be God's servants in making a better world.
Meeting New Needs
Like many nonprofits, Volunteers of America entered into a close working partnership with the government beginning in the 1960s with the Great Society programs of Lyndon Johnson and expanding in the 1970s and 1980s with the privatization of social services under presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. The organization grew rapidly, serving ever-larger numbers of people.
Growth brought major internal changes as well. In the early 1980s, Volunteers of America abandoned the military model of organization, along with rank and uniforms. Meanwhile, it strengthened the leadership role of local volunteer boards of directors in planning community services.