Endeavors & Servant Leadership in the COVID-19 Crisis

Impact Stories

The past year has been anything but predictable. As the pandemic swept the globe and civil unrest became a daily occurrence, the very concept of “normal” was turned upside down. 

Like many other organizations, this meant Endeavors had to act fast, act often, and act with great humility— from going completely remote in a few days to adjusting our program offerings to caring for our employees.

We sat down with our President and Chief Executive Officer Jon Allman and our Chief Operating Officer Chip Fulghum to talk about what “resiliency” looked like for Endeavors in 2020 and a few of the lessons we learned as an organization along the way.  

On going completely remote in just a few days… 

Last March, we had over 600 employees working on-site at our various locations. However, when the COVID-19 crisis rapidly required a response, we had to act fast. 

“Chip and I needed to size up the situation quickly,” said Endeavors President and CEO Jon Allman. “Within a few days, Chip had already put together a plan and mobilized his IT experience to help everyone work virtually.”

Since then, our 600 employees have operated almost completely in a virtual environment. 

“We’re used to dealing with clients directly,” said COO Chip Fulghum. “Suddenly, our providers weren’t able to do that. Despite all that, the company has operated extremely well.” 

Our leadership agreed that the main challenge throughout this whole process was communication. Virtual workspaces are completely different than in-person workspaces— because face-to-face interaction is limited, misunderstandings can arise quickly. For this reason, Mr. Fulghum and Mr. Allman began encouraging all employees to turn on their cameras during meetings. 

Though it was not easy to transition to a completely remote office so quickly, hard work and honest communication have created a wonderful virtual office. 

“We have learned how to overcome new challenges. So a lot of good has come out of this— the biggest: we know we can do this, we can work from anywhere,” said Mr. Fulghum. 

On caring for our employees during a pandemic… 

Throughout 2020, we wanted to make it a huge priority to take care of our Endeavors family. This meant going remote to ensure everyone’s safety, paying people even through periods of self-quarantine, and promoting healthy lifestyle choices. 

“We set out on day one to ensure no one loses their job because of COVID-19,” said Mr. Fulghum. “We wanted to take care of our employees and handle their unique situations on a case-by-case basis.” 

It helped us grow the culture we want to build, which is: everything centers around our employees and taking care of our employees. And if we do that, the mission and service will take care of themselves. 

On adapting our services to the situations at hand… 

After we made sure we were caring for our employees well, we had to mobilize our programs to properly meet the new needs that emerged in 2020. 

El Paso COVID19 shelter

“What we had to do was look at COVID and look at our service lines and ask: how can we impact those who are vulnerable?” said Mr. Fulghum. 

For Endeavors, that looked like amping up our Rapid Re-housing and Homeless Prevention programs and providing emergency shelters in El Paso and Dallas. We also added Deep Sanitization services to our offerings at Endeavors Unlimited, a program that helps provide jobs to people with disabilities. 

We also were able to respond to the cries for racial justice by creating the Major General (Ret) Alfred K. Flowers Scholarship for Black students pursuing a degree in social services in Texas and North Carolina. 

Despite the pandemic, during 2020 Endeavors was able to significantly improve the lives of 46,516 people across three states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. 

On servant leadership, empathy, and vulnerability…  

At Endeavors, the model our leadership strives to follow is servant leadership. This became especially prevalent with the many challenges 2020 presented. 

“Servant leadership is making the person doing the groundwork the one who is in charge, “ said Mr. Allman. “You put the people who are doing the work at the very top. And that’s what we strive to do. And that’s where I think we’re different. We want our employees to expect us to ask, ‘How can we help?’” 

“Servant leadership means taking a step back every day and trying to ask, ‘How can I add value and how can I make a difference?’” said Mr. Fulghum. “If we treat each other the way we aspire to treat our clients, we’ll change the culture in our organization.”  

For Mr. Fulghum and Mr. Allman, vulnerability and empathy are a big part of servant leadership. “Servant leaders try to put themselves in the other person’s shoes and try to look at things from their perspective,” said Mr. Fulghum. “That is how we made it through COVID.” 

On what’s next for Endeavors…

As we journey further into 2021, we are excited about the opportunities to expand our services to those in need to include Veteran Support and Wellness, Emergency Services, Community Based Services, and Migrant Services. We are blessed to have such an incredible team committed to realizing our vision to care for people in need compassionately. 

We are thankful to our incredible employees and donors for their support during the past year. If you would like to help us with our mission of serving vulnerable populations in crisis, please visit our website. 

Jon Allman: President and CEO

Jon Allman graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Arkansas in 1987 and earned an MA in administration from Webster University in St Louis, Missouri. During his 20-year career in the Air Force, he flew combat missions while leading the only dedicated aeromedical evacuation squadron in Europe as Director of Operations. In October 2000, Mr. Allman piloted the MacKay Trophy award-winning mission to Aden Yemen, rescuing critically wounded survivors from the terrorist attack on the USS Cole.

Chip Fulghum: Chief Operating Officer

Prior to his employment at Endeavors, Mr. Fulghum experienced successful careers within the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the U.S. Air Force as an officer. He is a graduate of the Air War College, the Air Command and Staff College, Professional Military Comptroller School, and Squadron Officer School. He holds a Masters of Business Administration from Golden Gate University in San Francisco, California, and a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History from The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina.

About Endeavors
Endeavors, a San Antonio-based nonprofit, is a longstanding national nonprofit agency that provides an array of programs and services supporting children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness, disabilities, disasters, or emergencies. Endeavors has served vulnerable people in need since 1969 through personalized services. Today, our team has offices in Texas, North Carolina, Florida, and Puerto Rico. For more information, please visit www.endeavors.org.

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