By Lucas Vader

Staff Writer

On March 8, 1896, Volunteers of America, or VOA, was conceived when Ballington Booth, the son of the Salvation Army founders and his wife, Maud Charlesworth Booth, the daughter of an Anglican rector, publicly announced what they had started.

Allegedly to a standing-room-only crowd in the Great Hall of New York City’s Cooper Union, the Booths told thousands of people of the new organization which planned to dedicate itself to serving the spiritual and material needs of the poor and disadvantaged.

The Booths, as the story goes according to VOA, envisioned a movement committed to “reaching and uplifting” the American people. The two made a pledge. They would “go wherever we are needed and do whatever work comes to hand,” they said.

That was 125 years ago as of Monday, but the Booths’ declaration has served as the base for the organization ever since.

VOA is now one of the largest nationwide nonprofit providers of quality affordable housing and long-term skilled nursing care and health services. This is according to VOA itself, which has grown into a crucial service across the United States.

VOA’s regional director of operations Craig Ammermann said of the organization on this milestone: “We are blessed to celebrate a rich 125-year history of empowering those in need. We are proud of the impact our faith-based nonprofit has had across the country and in Western Colorado in the lives of those we serve.”

In honor of the century and a quarter of service, Monday, March 8, was nationally proclaimed VOA Day.

Delta and Montrose followed suit in their local proclamations of the same name.

VOA reports a network of 30 affiliate chapters which employ more than 16,000 professionals, overall empowering 1.5 million people in over 400 communities every year. In Western Colorado, VOA employs about 620 individuals in seven different healthcare and aging programs for older adults.

Volunteers of America on a national level serves more than 27,000 veterans annually who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. As one of the largest providers and developers of quality affordable housing, VOA encompasses more than 500 properties in 40 states and Puerto Rico, providing affordable housing units to more than 25,000 people each year.

In terms of senior care, VOA provides skilled nursing care, assisted living, home health care and PACE programs, as well as affordable housing depending on needs of individuals and families. In this way, VOA reports serving 8,000 seniors annually.

“Volunteers of America has become one of the largest charities in the U.S.,” VOA National President Mike King said. “When the organization sees an area where assistance is needed, it mobilizes.”

Those accomplishments are no fewer closer to home, as in the Western Slope, VOA reports 50 units of housing in independent and assisted living, care and supports services to 160 home health patients, 147 home-bound meal delivery clients, 220 community dining meal clients and 350 PACE program participants.

“We are always evaluating how to adapt to changing times and provide the best options for meeting the varied needs of the citizens in Montrose, Delta and San Miguel counties,” Ammermann said.

Volunteers of America lays out their full range of extensive senior and aging services on its website, voaseniorliving.org.

Associated photos and location descriptions were corrected 10:20 a.m. March 10.

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