Four children standing under a sign that says Volunteers of America Disaster Relief in 1948 who had been evacuated from Vanport, Oregon.
Volunteers of America Salvage and Rehabilitation Dept. Truck with two women and a man unloading at the back.

Our History

Volunteers of America was founded by social reform activists Ballington and Maud Booth in 1896. 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.” This declaration has guided Volunteers of America’s outreach efforts ever since.

Captain Thompson led the efforts for Volunteers of American in Oregon, beginning his work in the late 1800’s. As the Oregon affiliate began establishing its headquarters, the focus of work was providing spiritual services, holiday season programming, and relief departments which provided clothing and support to those in need.

In the early 1900’s, Captain Jessie Starks took command of the Oregon Post and continued to grow the services provided to the community. In our early years, we focused on helping women and children through the Young Women’s House, our first day nursery, and Mothers’ and Childrens’ home. These sites provided housing for low wage and unemployed workers, vocational and industrial classes, and childcare for working, single mothers.

At this time, Maud Booth started the Prison League, which offered support to prison inmates through spiritual and emotional aid, acting as parole advisors, and assisting recently released prisoners.

By the mid-1900’s Volunteers of America Oregon (VOA Oregon) had added several new services and expanded sites for women and children. We began serving senior citizens, providing health clinics, drop-in centers, and a community for the populations we served to receive support. We also offered treatment services and opened the first VOA Oregon Thrift Store.

In 1999, Kay Toran became the new President of VOA Oregon and has guided the organization into the 21st century. With Kay’s leadership we have continued to grow our services that create communities centered on wellness.

Today, our services still center around that same calling that the Booths pledged in 1896. Our work has and continues to be focused on supporting individuals and families by meeting them where they are. VOA Oregon commits to creating vibrant, diverse, and compassionate communities where every member is valued, every home is safe, and every life is self-determined.

Celebrating 12y Years

At our 2021 DePreist Award for Excellence, we celebrated 125 years of empowering Oregonians. Watch to learn more about our history and how we continue to serve our community today.