Veteran With Disabilities Retires As Endeavors’ Longest-Serving Employee
Last Updated: 23 Jun 2023
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Endeavors’ longest-serving employees retires, leaving a legacy of possibility for other professionals with disabilities.
We recently celebrated the retirement of our longest-serving team member, William “W” Wood! W has been with our organization for 31 years, and leaves behind a legacy of kindness and helping people with disabilities thrive in their careers.
He first discovered his love of working in mechanics during a high school vocational class. After graduation, W joined the Air Force as a mechanic and was stationed in Thailand, where he worked on jets and prepped them for war.
Then one day, W started hearing laughter and voices even though no one was around. As his symptoms worsened, W checked into a state hospital for six months and was later diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia, a mental disorder that affects 1 in 300 people worldwide.
When he checked out of the hospital in 1979, he enrolled in Endeavors’ housing program for people with disabilities in San Antonio. The men’s lodge (now called the Fairweather Lodge) offered W security and stability. In 1991, W started working at Endeavors Unlimited, our supportive employment program, which was called Fairweather Professional Services at the time.
Endeavors Unlimited provides housing, life skills training, and supportive employment opportunities for adults with disabilities with the goal of helping them achieve a stable, successful, and self-sufficient lifestyle.
W liked to brag about the cooking classes he took at the Fairweather Lodge, and how he was put in charge of Thanksgiving Dinner at his lodge. At Endeavors, W found a community. He had people at the lodge and at work that he could talk to when he was having a bad day or felt one coming on. Everything that W needed to live the most independent and fulfilling life possible, Endeavors found a way to provide.
Up until his retirement, W remained a crucial member of the landscaping team working on major government and commercial contracts. With a few accommodations, he has been able to develop a successful, stable career and live a fulfilling life. We are lucky to work with a man as dedicated to his work and his team as W is, and we have been honored to support him for over thirty years.
“W is a great example of how employment means MUCH more than a paycheck,” says Endeavors Unlimited Program Director Elique Guerra. “W could’ve retired over a decade ago but he genuinely loves to get out and show he can still work and is a needed part of the team.”
“Working gives people a chance to get out and interact with other people, to make friendships, improve self-worth, improve self-sustainability, and be more involved in the community,” Guerra explains. “The income is important, of course, but the intangible benefits are often more valuable than the paycheck to so many people like W. At Endeavors Unlimited, we understand that employment is an important (and often overlooked) component of the overall wellness of people with disabilities.”
As an inaugural member of the Endeavors Unlimited landscaping crew in San Antonio, W helped build up our program to employ people with disabilities by training our now Operations Manager, David Sheppard. “When I first started with FPS,” David remembers, “W was the one who taught me how to use every piece of equipment associated with landscaping including the zero-turn mowers. He also taught me how to pull and park a trailer in some very tight places. He has always been engaged in his work no matter what we ask him to do.”
Since then, W has helped train new hire after new hire, and has been essential to expanding Endeavors Unlimited’s mission. “He has a way of making others with disabilities feel welcome and relaxed without having to say a lot,” Guerra says.
W’s most recent assignment prior to retiring was managing a two-mile stretch of landscape, keeping it clean and litter-free.
“His hard work and dedication are appreciated and show that people with disabilities are amazing and are a very important piece of what we do!” says Sheppard. Texas ranks #2 in the nation for the largest population of persons with disabilities, yet, it is among the nation’s worst states when it comes to supporting this population. Endeavors Unlimited aims to change that, and employees like W are moving the needle.
In honor of his retirement, W’s Case Manager took him shopping for a new suit, and the Endeavors Unlimited team threw him a casual party that would celebrate him without overwhelming him. He was showered in gifts from his San Antonio team and Endeavors leadership, and posed for pictures with his signature peace sign. A man of few words, W nonetheless has some sage advice for the next generation of professionals with disabilities:
“Go out there and try,” he says. “You never know until you try.”
W will enjoy retirement at Endeavors’ Fairweather Lodge, where he will always have a home.
About Endeavors and Endeavors Unlimited
Endeavors is a longstanding national non-profit that provides an array of programs and services in support of children, families, Veterans, and those struggling with mental illness and other disabilities. Endeavors serves vulnerable people in crisis through innovative personalized services. For more information, please visit endeavors.org.
Founded in the 1980s, Endeavors Unlimited is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to employing and providing job supportive services to individuals with disabilities. With a goal of creating sustainable employment for those we employ, we partner with commercial and governmental agencies, both of whom rely on Endeavors Unlimited to provide them with quality, consistent, and professional services so they can focus on their business goals. To learn more, please visit endeavors.org/undeavors-unlimited.