VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA OF NORTHEAST OHIO, INC. has provided relief for Cleveland's poor since 1896, as part of a national agency organized along quasi-military lines, an American offshoot of the SALVATION ARMY. The Volunteers of America formed in New York City in March 1896. By May 3 posts existed in Cleveland, directed by Capt. John Denton. Both the leadership and the location of the early posts changed frequently. By 1907 the Volunteers' People's Mission and Sunday school provided spiritual uplift while its Relief Department helped with rent, groceries, and medicine. On 19 May 1906, it opened the Working Girls' Home at 2556 E. 14th St. (moved to 1214 Woodland, 1909-15), and in Dec. 1906 opened a men's home at headquarters, 131 Prospect Ave. In 1911 the Volunteers began the Fresh Air Camp for urban children, in Eagle Cliff.
By the end of World War I, local Volunteers focused on gospel mission and relief; in 1927 all facilities were located at 8021 Wade Park. The chapel and men's lodge remained there until Mar. 1952, when the Volunteers moved to 2 buildings on Carroll Ave. After World War II, the Volunteers expanded to provide employment and rehabilitation for the poor and disabled. From 1958-66, the group operated 15 stores selling merchandise repaired by employees. Beginning in the late 1960s, the number of stores declined; in 1982 only 3 still operated. With its major source of income diminished, the organization considered closing. In 1981 and 1983, however, foundation grants enabled the Volunteers to expand their shelter for the homeless. The organization was formally incorporated as the Volunteers of America of Northeast Ohio in Jan. 1994. The local branch continued to provide disaster and seasonal relief, alcohol rehabilitation, and shelter for 60 homeless men and homeless or battered women on a daily basis in 1995, while it also maintained two merchandise resale stores, one at its headquarters (2600 Carroll Ave.) and one in Aurora, OH. Dennis Kresak served as the Volunteers's president and CEO in 1995. The Volunteers planned an all-Ohio (for the state's 6 branches) Centennial Celebration for 1996.
See also WELFARE/RELIEF, PHILANTHROPY.