Our History

"I believe in the Volunteers because I believe in the man and woman around whom this movement has crystallized. I believe in the Volunteers because I believe in the principles on which the movement is based."  --Rev. Josiah Strong

Volunteers of America was founded in New York City in 1896 by social reformers Ballington and Maud Booth. How they came to develop one of America's largest and most successful faith-based social service organizations is a story of commitment, devotion, spirit -- and great joy.

Activists with a Cause 


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. Maud and Ballington envisioned a movement committed to "reaching and uplifting" the American people. On behalf of the new organization, the Booths pledged to "go wherever we are needed, and do whatever comes to hand," a declaration that has guided Volunteers of America's outreach efforts ever since.

For more than 40 years, Maud and Ballington traveled the country, helping volunteers from all walks of life serve those most in need. The organization helped the poor living in tenement houses, founded day nurseries and summer camps, and pioneered the Volunteer Prison league to support prisoners and their families.

A Woman Before Her Time 

Maud Booth became a pioneer in the prison reform movement and was known as the "Little Mother" of the prisons. She also established the first halfway houses, known as Hope Halls, which helped former convicts readjust to society. To this day Volunteers of America manages similar programs based on her model.

When Ballington died in 1940, Maud, then 75, assumed responsibility for steering the growing organization. Maud and Ballington's son Charles Brandon Booth took the helm in 1948 upon his mother's death. In 1953, Charles moved the National Headquarters from 28th Street to the Upper West Side. The new headquarters on West 85th Street served as the National Headquarters until 1979 when it was moved to New Orleans and eventually to Alexandria, Virginia.

The Future is Now 

Today Volunteers of America helps more than 2 million people in over 400 communities. One of the world's largest and most comprehensive nonprofit human services organizations, it has a $900 million annual budget, employs more than 16,000 professionals and recruits thousands of volunteers.

Now more than 100 years old, Volunteers of America's services have evolved with the changing times, however the organization still retains the essence of Maud and Ballington's work. We celebrate the birth of the Volunteers of America movement every March by celebrating the work of the staff and volunteers who breathe life into our mission every day.

Volunteers of America-Greater New York 

The history of the Greater New York affiliate is intricately intertwined with the national organization. The national headquarters, originally in New York City, relocated to New Orleans in 1979 and to Alexandria, VA in 2000. Today, the West 85th Street facility, known as The Brandon Residence, after Maud and Ballington's son Charles Brandon Booth, houses the Greater New York executive offices, a work rehabilitation program for men in recovery, and a single-room-occupancy residence for women. The Greater New York affiliate is the largest, with an operating budget close to $100 million and more than 1,300 employees.

Everyday Miracles 

Now in its second century of caring for those in need, Volunteers of America, a 501(c)(3) organization, understands what it takes to heal families and individuals in crisis. Providing care for people with mental illness and addiction, people with HIV/AIDS, teens struggling in the foster care system, offenders returning to the community from prison, veterans, older adults trying to remain in the community, and adults and children with developmental disabilities, our skilled professionals have years of experience and thousands of successes.

Volunteers of America expertly galvanizes myriad resources within neighborhoods - including individual and corporate volunteers who provide many special services critical to helping make everyday miracles a reality. In addition, the organization offers volunteer training, placement and referral services to thousands of people each year who are looking for opportunities to build stronger communities.

Since its founding in 1896, Volunteers of America-Greater New York's work has evolved with the changing social and political landscapes, but it remains true to its mission to "reach and uplift all people."