VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA OHIO & INDIANA (formerly known as 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.
Under the leadership of President & CEO Dennis Kresak, from 1996 to 2018, Volunteers of America Northeast North Central merged with nearby Ohio affiliates of the National organization. By 2014, Northeast North Central had merged with the Central Ohio Affiliate, Ohio River Valley Affiliate and the Northwest Ohio affiliate, changing its name to Volunteers of America Greater Ohio. These mergers made the Greater Ohio affiliate among one of the largest affiliates of Volunteers of America.
In 2018, Volunteers of America Greater Ohio merged with Volunteers of America, Indiana Inc. to form Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana. Under John R. von Arx III, President and CEO, in March 2021, Volunteers of America and Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana celebrated their 125th anniversary.
The Volunteers of America Ohio & Indiana affiliate's work in Northeast Ohio serves the veteran at-risk and homeless populations, in Cuyahoga, Summit, Stark and Lorain Counties. They also operate three regional thrift enterprise stores. Volunteers of America National Services locally operates affordable housing complexes in greater Cleveland and Youngstown, Ohio.
Updated by Becky Carlino