Human Support Services to Open Bed & Breakfast in Waterloo

February 22nd, 2018

HSS Bed & Breakfast

If you haven’t heard by now, let me be the first to share our very exciting news: we are the proud owners of a Bed & Breakfast!

On February 16, Human Support Services closed on property at 4505 HH Road in Waterloo that we plan to operate as a bed and breakfast and a group home.

This is a very, very big deal for our HSS family!

HSS Bed & Breakfast

While we’re still in the early stages of this project, we envision that this five-bedroom home will become a full-time home for three of our clients with developmental disabilities. The clients, with help and supervision from HSS staff, will work at and operate the B & B.

The clients who will live and work at the B & B will be chosen based on their capabilities, talents and desire to live and work in this setting.

Each client will have his or her own bedroom and bathroom. The remaining two bedrooms will be offered as traditional bed and breakfast rooms, open to the general public and/or our out-of-town guests and family members visiting our clients here at HSS.

HSS Bed & Breakfast

I’m particularly excited because this B & B is going to be a fantastic place for many clients – not just those who live there – to gain job valuable job skills and social interaction. As we develop the property and operate the B & B, there will be opportunities in everything from grounds keeping to meal preparation.

You may remember that this property was previously operated as the Waterloo Inn bed and breakfast, came on the real estate market in 2017.

HSS senior management saw the property as an opportunity that could benefit our clients, our organization and the community at large.

The B & B will be an asset to local tourism, and is likely the first of its kind in Illinois.

We are preparing the building for occupancy now and hope to start serving guests in early spring.

I hope you are as excited about this project as I am!


Mental Health First Aid Courses Teach Individuals – How to Help Someone in a Mental Health Crisis

January 26th, 2018

mental health usa

By the looks of them, they weren’t excited about this day.

Even the most eager learners aren’t typically enthusiastic about being crammed into a tiny conference room for eight hours.

But this group – eight men and one woman – looked particularly pessimistic about this training session.

They were corrections officers – jailers in conversational terms – and this was Mental Health First Aid training from Human Support Services.

This was not regular First Aid; there would be no CPR skills being taught in this course. But the material they would learn – if they were willing – could just as likely save a life.

Mental Health First Aid teaches individuals how to identify, understand and respond to signs of mental illnesses and substance use disorders in their communities.

Like CPR, Mental Health First Aid can help save someone’s life in an emergency by teaching them how to respond when someone is in the middle of a mental health crisis.

The training also gives participants the tools they need to identify signs of a developing mental health issue in a co-worker, friend or family member, and intervene successfully.

Mental Health First Aid training, which can be offered to anyone in the community, is particularly helpful for first responders and corrections officers because it can help prevent the escalation of situations that are often already volatile.

For trainees who work in these high-risk environments, the tools provided might just help prevent injuries, arrest and in some instances, even death.

As expected, the training started out slowly. When the instructor talked about mental illness, a few officers expressed skepticism. Could this training really make a difference?

But as the instructor pressed on, she noticed a change. As she talked about the symptoms and the signs of anxiety and depression, she began to see their expressions change a little.

By the time lunch rolled around, an officer in the back raised his hand. He said his closest friend had been exhibiting many of the behaviors the instructor was describing.

The more she talked, the more the officer began to realize his friend was depressed.  He wanted to know how he could help his friend.

The instructor shared real life scenarios and took the officers through hands-on demonstrations, walking them through what it might look like to approach a woman having a panic attack in a busy shopping mall.

By the second half of the day, the room was quieter and all the officers were more attentive.

As the instructor guided the officers through more role play exercises, more began to recognize signs they had seen in inmates and suspects.

The officers began to realize that what might look like intentional noncompliant behavior might actually be the result of a mental illness episode.

During one exercise, each officer took a turn trying to answer questions from a teammate while the instructor whispered negative comments incessantly in his ear. The exercise, which is intended to simulate what it’s like for someone who suffers from schizophrenia, was eye-opening for many of the officers.

Though Mental Health First Aid training is just a short one-day course, it can change minds and in turn, change lives.

Right now, Human Support Services only has one individual  trained to offer Mental Health First Aid courses. We could offer many more classes if we had more instructors.

The more people who understand how to respond to someone who is having a mental health crisis, the better prepared we all will be to handle difficult situations.

Every Mental Health First Aid training helps our community take one more step toward understanding that mental health concerns are not something to fear.

If someone is developing or experiencing a mental health crisis, a listening ear and a little assistance may be all they need to get back on track. Please support Human Support Services in our efforts to educate the community.

Michelle’s Story

November 21st, 2017


When they first began to talk about her, she was visibly overwhelmed. Her cheeks flushed crimson as she covered her face with her hands, momentarily uncomfortable in the spotlight.

But then, a giggle escaped. Another quickly followed.

Soon, any signs of shyness evaporated and in its’ place was another, more powerful emotion – joy.  A joy so effervescent it seemed to vibrate from her every move.

She shook as she rose from her seat at the table, giggles escaping as her eyes danced.

Michelle may have been nervous in front of the crowd, but those nerves were no match for excitement and pride.

This night, she got the chance to stand next to her “big boss,” Waterloo Mayor Tom Smith.

Smith presented Human Support Services with a check for the work Michelle and her fellow day services clients had done to help the city.

For Michelle, it wasn’t about the giant cardboard check. The heart-swelling pride so visible in her excited giggle and beaming smile had little to do with the money she made.

For her, this was about more than just a job.

It was about HER job.

She had spent the summer beautifying the streets of downtown Waterloo, and this fall, she helped run a pumpkin painting booth at a festival.

She had an important job in HER community. Her big boss was telling everyone that she did her job well. It mattered. She mattered.

The partnership between HSS and the city gave Michelle more than a job to do – it gave her a sense of pride, purpose, and more than a little joy.

We are able to give her these inspiring gifts of pride and new beginnings because of YOU – our donors.

Help Human Support Services develop more valuable partnerships and programs so that we can continue to change lives – one story at a time.

Invest in the future of our community by contributing to our annual holiday appeal today.


James’ Story

November 21st, 2017


There’s a framed picture of his mom on the wall, and James is quick to point it out to guests.

Beaming with pride, he’ll show you the television, the gaming system and the view from the windows in his upstairs bedroom.  Then on the way out, he’ll mention the picture of his mom.

The house has all the amenities – a lovely yard, spacious, comfortably-furnished rooms, and even a deck. But those perks of real estate aren’t on the official “James tour” of the house.

The photograph of his mom, though, that’s a key part of the tour.

Because for James, that picture is an integral part of what makes this charming two-story house a home – his home.

Having a place to call home matters to everyone, but it may mean even more to James.

For him, having a home also means having independence, opportunities to be a part of the community and a sense of family.

And in this house on a quiet residential street, he’s found all three.

James shares this residential Human Support Services home with two other Human Support Services clients and caregivers.

Together, James and his roommates share meals, household responsibilities, and lives as independent as possible.

They’re a family, as loving and unique as any other.

JamesThough James’ mom passed away shortly before he moved into this HSS house, he knows she would have been proud of his new home and this exciting new chapter in his life.

James’ sister Angela, who lives nearby, agrees.

“It gives me great peace of mind to know he is in an environment where staff goes above and beyond to learn how to help him live a full and useful life. I can tell he is made to feel needed and that he is contributing to the community,” she said.

We are able to provide comfortable homes and opportunities for independence because of YOU – our donors.

There are many more individuals like James, looking for opportunities to live, work and thrive in our community.

Join us in helping find a sense of home. Invest in our local community and donate to the Human Support Services annual holiday appeal today.


Mickey’s Story

November 21st, 2017


He’s no longer a young man, but when Mickey smiles, his eyes twinkle with the pure, unadulterated joy of youth.

There’s a light inside Mickey, the kind you can see without ever having to hear him speak a single word.

Mickey, 63, was diagnosed with cerebral palsy as a child and is deaf. He communicates through sign language, the written word and some speech.

While he may not say much directly to most people, Mickey has the very rare and enviable gift of making those around him feel happier, just by being who he is.

Every day, when Mickey arrives at the Human Support Services workshop, he shows up with that contagious smile and an enthusiastic wave.

“He’s usually happy,” said his mom, Reita. “Every morning, he greets me with a smile and ‘good morning.’”

Mickey, who has been working in the day services program at HSS since 1992, lives with his parents, Reita and Orville.

Mickey loves his job with HSS, Reita says. Every day, he gets up in the morning, makes his bed and prepares his breakfast and his lunch at home before boarding the bus to HSS.

When Mickey gets home in the afternoon, he handles a few chores around the house, including mowing the yard, sweeping the floor and taking out the garbage.

“HSS gives him a place to work that we feel comfortable with,” Reita said. “He is making money which is important to him, and he’s gotten into the Special Olympics. HSS has just been wonderful to him. We don’t worry about him when he’s gone. They provide the transportation and without that he wouldn’t be able to work so much.”

Mickey is proud of his job and likes to earn money so he can buy food and gifts for his friends and family. His favorite days are when he gets to do janitorial work because he earns the most money, Reita says.

“I can’t imagine what would have happened with Mickey if he didn’t have HSS,” Reita said. “He doesn’t like having to miss work. If we go on vacation he’s anxious to get back so he can get back to work.”

In his spare time, Mickey loves making projects with his wood-burning tool. He gives his finished designs as gifts, and has even won awards at the Monroe County Fair. He also enjoys watching football, baseball and basketball with his dad.

For Mickey, HSS provides a job he loves, and a sense of purpose.

This year, HSS workshop clients worked more than 39,000 hours on projects for area businesses. Partnerships like these give our clients safe, supervised on-site jobs, while giving local businesses an affordable, dependable workforce.

Join us in building more partnerships like these to make our community stronger. Your contribution to the Human Support Services annual holiday appeal will make a difference to individuals and families right here in Monroe County.