Serving America’s Most Vulnerable for 127 Years
NEW ORLEANS, LA (February 28, 2023) - On March 8, 1896, when social reformers Ballington and Maud Booth founded Volunteers of America, it was for the same mission that the organization maintains today—to serve the country’s most marginalized populations. Now, 127 years later, the organization celebrates its annual Founders Day on March 8, a time to reflect on the pioneering service provided over the years while also spotlighting the important work being done today to address our nation’s most pressing social needs.
“Volunteers of America has become one of the largest charities in the U.S.,” said Voris R. Vigee, President & CEO of Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana (VOASELA). “When the organization sees an area where assistance is needed, it mobilizes.”
Just a few months after the opening in New York, the Booths sent a team to establish a presence in southeast Louisiana in response to the yellow fever epidemic. Now, 127 years later, over 28,000 people are assisted annually in the 16 parishes of southeast Louisiana. VOASELA offers over 20 human service programs designed to help empowered and uplifted individuals including veterans, at-risk youth, low-income seniors, men and women returning home after incarceration, homeless individuals and families, persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, families in need of affordable housing, and those recovering from addictions. VOASELA has also been a licensed adoption agency for over 80 years, creating thousands of forever families through the Adoption and Maternity program.
Volunteers of America’s founders first moved from the U.K. to New York in the 1890 to assume command of the Salvation Army in America. Ballington Booth was the son of General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army. When Salvation Army leaders couldn’t get along, the Booths left and formed Volunteers of America (VOA). In the early 1900s, VOA ran an employment bureau, co-operative stores and medical dispensaries. It distributed food and clothes and taught women’s sewing classes. During the Depression, the organization mobilized to provide employment, run soup kitchens and feed the millions who were homeless and hungry.
In the 1960’s, VOA became known for its thrift stores and annual fundraising programs. It turned its focus to affordable housing. Today, Volunteers of America is one of the nation’s largest providers of affordable housing, with more than 500 properties that provide homes to approximately 25,000 residents. The organization buys, renovates, builds and develops housing for the country’s homeless and most at-risk populations including veterans, seniors and families.
In the 1970’s, Volunteers of America added being a major provider of professional long-term nursing care to its portfolio of services. Today, it not only offers home health care and related services, but also owns and operates nursing facilities, assisted and independent living residences.
Over the past century, the organization has become one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive human services organizations, touching the lives of more than 1.5 million people a year in communities across the U.S. It now operates 30 affiliates in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Most recently, Volunteers of America has launched programs to help those with moral injury.
About Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana:
Volunteers of America is one of the nation’s oldest and largest comprehensive human services organizations with 16,000 paid professionals, dedicated to helping those in need rebuild their lives and reach their full potential. Founded in 1896, the faith-based nonprofit has affiliates in over 400 communities in 46 states, the District of Columbia, and serves more than 1.5 million people a year.
For 127 years, Volunteers of America Southeast Louisiana has empowered and uplifted individuals including veterans, at-risk youth, low-income seniors, men and women returning home after incarceration, homeless individuals and families, persons with intellectual and developmental disabilities, families in need of affordable housing, and those recovering from addictions. 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. Visit www.voasela.org for more information.