At Endeavors, the promise of wellness for veterans

Veterans in San Antonio — Military City, USA — are lucky to have vast resources available to them. In fact, there’s so much support that some vets, caregivers and family members may feel overwhelmed or unsure of where to begin to find help.

That’s one reason Endeavors’ new Veteran Wellness Center, or VWC, on De Zavala Road near Interstate 10 is so innovative — it’s a one-stop hub designed to help with all aspects of health and wellness.

The 27,000-square-foot glass-and-stone facility opened in November and offers a holistic approach focused on six principles of wellness: knowledge, mind-body, connectedness, spiritual, environmental and economic needs.

To do that, the VWC offers mental health services, primary and dental care, case management, physical and occupational therapy, nutrition services, yoga and tai chi, acupuncture, chiropractic care and physical fitness. There’s also collaboration and meeting areas, free Wi-Fi and a juice bar.

The VWC also offers office space for other organizations, including a field office for US Rep. Tony Gonzales, a San Antonio Republican.

“Because this is the first veteran wellness center that’s privately funded in the United States,” said Jon Allman, president and chief executive of Endeavors, the 2,300-person-strong nonprofit that five Presbyterian churches launched in San Antonio in 1969, “we have to prove the concept.”

The concept is grounded in research and proven methods. In developing the VWC, Dr. Jill Palmer, the center’s behavioral health chief, integrated mental health, physical health and recovery services with wellness principles.

Allman and his team benchmarked the VWC on Duke University’s wellness center that “incorporated this idea of ​​bringing the outside in — they kept it very light and open and very appealing,” he said. “And that means a lot in mental health.”

From the natural light that flows in through vast windows to the walls of green living mosses and beds of river rock, both inside and out, the place instills a sense of peace and comfort. It’s clear that Endeavors didn’t leave anything to chance in the VWC’s design. Everything in the airy and bright building with clean lines and a friendly staff feels intentional versus institutional.

“I call it the SPC because really, this is a suicide prevention center,” said Chip Fulghum, Endeavors’ chief operating officer. “Because if you can get a veteran in the door here, then they get to choose their own path to wellness.”

As many have said, it’s about meeting people where they are in life without judgment. Endeavors not only helps veterans with honorable discharges, it also supports those with bad conduct discharges. Fulghum said these “high-barrier clients” often struggled the most in getting help.

The organization also helps veterans with emergency housing, financial assistance, Veteran Affairs claims, access to substance abuse programs, skills workshops and job placement.

Endeavor’s Veteran Wellness Center opened in November and offers a holistic approach to healing, recovery and re-entry.

Courtesy /Kathy Bradley Castañon, Lines &

According to Fulghum, Endeavors’ emergency financial assistance to vets grew nearly tenfold during COVID.

“Pre-COVID, we were handing out about $70,000 a month in temporary financial assistance,” he said. “In December of 2020, we handed out $675,000 in a month for veterans and their families.”

For Karl Plummer, 59, Endeavors has made all the difference. Following a 17-year prison stint for drug charges, the Army veteran moved to San Antonio to be close to family.

He soon landed a job but couldn’t find an apartment because of his past. Plummer’s case manager, Julianna Barnes, convinced a property manager to give him a chance. And the support didn’t stop there. The organization covered three months of Plummer’s rent and delivered home goods and furniture.

“I’d been sleeping on a little cot for 17 years and they brought in a brand-new queen-sized bed … and it was like, ‘oh, my God,'” Plummer said. “They didn’t just give me a place to live, but they gave me a home.”

Erik Nelson, 48, shares that sentiment. Endeavors supported the Marine Corps veteran after someone stole the pickup he’d been living in.

“They helped me out a lot,” he said. “I mean, if it wasn’t for them, I’d still be on the streets.”

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