Our History

Volunteers of America was founded in 1896 by social reformers Ballington and Maud Booth. They envisioned a movement dedicated to “reaching and uplifting” the American people. On behalf of the organization, the Booths pledged to “go wherever we are needed, and do whatever comes to hand.” That declaration continues to guide Volunteers of America’s outreach efforts today. 

The Depression 

The Great Depression of the 1930s stretched the nation's private social welfare system almost to the breaking point. 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. 


Volunteers of America served proudly on the home front during both world wars. The group operated canteens, overnight lodging and Sunday breakfasts for soldiers and sailors on leave. Affordable housing and child care were provided for defense industry workers. Further, 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 1960s

Our special mission in housing dates to our organization's founding. Volunteers of America helped accelerate real estate development during the 1960s by taking part in numerous federal housing programs. Since 1968, Volunteers of America has developed over 300 affordable housing complexes in more than 30 states.

Timeline of VOA Illinois' recent events


VOA Illinois was exclusively doing child welfare services and contracted by the Illinois Department of Child and Family Services.


VOA Illinois took over a unique housing portfolio from the National office, that provided affordable housing options for the frail elderly and adults with disabilities primarily in St. Louis, MO. 

July 2007

VOA Illinois began serving Veterans with  the support of the  Homeless Veterans Reintegration Program (HVRP -U.S. Department of Labor) grant. 

April 2009

Development of Hope Manor I began, which would provide 80 Veterans in homelessness, at risk of homelessness or in serious instability with a place to call home. 

April 2012

Hope Manor I opened at full capacity!

September 2011 

VOA Illinois expanded capacity of serving Veterans  with the support of the Supportive Services for Veteran Families (SSVF-U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs) grant, which provided VOA Illinois with the resources to operate the True North Project for Veterans .

October 2012

Development of Hope Manor II began, which would provide 73 Veteran-headed households, who are at risk of serious instability, with a place to call home. 

April 2014

Hope Manor II opened and to date is 100% leased!

January 2015

VOA Illinois was awarded the contract from the Department of Veterans Affairs to administer transitional housing services to Veterans in acute instability through a safe haven model, which we named Hope Hall. To date, Hope Hall is at capacity and currently serves 12 male Veterans and 2 female Veterans. 


VOA Illinois continues to serve children in foster care, affordable housing for the frail elderly and Veterans who are homeless or in serious instability. We are in our second century of service, we are part of a network that is one of the nation's largest and most comprehensive human services organization in the United States and we will continue helping America's most vulnerable for years to come.

The History of Volunteers of America

Over 123 years of service

Our History