Opal Lang Named HSS Volunteer of the Year

October 30th, 2017

Opal Lang

At an organization so blessed with devoted volunteers, it’s no easy task to choose just one to honor as Volunteer of the Year.

But as we prepared for this year’s Celebration Dinner, it was time to choose one person – a person who for many years, has been doing so much more than expected to make Human Support Services the very best it can be.

Opal Lang is our 2017 Volunteer of the Year!

As we began talking to others in our HSS family about Opal, we heard countless stories about her selfless dedication – her tireless work to make our clients and staff happier and healthier.

In addition to the daily responsibilities of her job, she helps organize all our client vacation fundraisers, ensuring that our clients get to take the very best vacations possible.

In fact, every time Human Support Services hosts a fundraiser or community event of any kind, she is there.

Just to name a few, Opal has worked behind the counter at a funnel cake stand, a root beer float stand and a nacho cheese stand at events like the Waterloo Homecoming.

When we host our Human Support Services Trivia Night, Opal is the person behind the scenes, picking up donations, making phone calls, putting the baskets together, and manning the raffle tables.

Last year, we held a barbecue lunch fundraiser and she was right there on the frontlines, taking orders, boxing lunches and making phone calls.

When our Day Training staff held a craft stand fundraiser, Opal spent countless hours making crafts and gathering supplies that were one sale, looking for just the right materials that would suit the crafts that our client were making.

She even donated her Thrivent Action Team dollars to get seed money for the project, and then worked at the craft stand at SparkleFest in Columbia.

When HSS has a float in a local parade like the GLOW Lighted holiday parade at Thanksgiving, Opal is the one driving staff involvement, coming up with the creative ideas and organizing meetings.

She makes the costumes for our clients and assists clients so they can participate, even when that means pushing a wheelchair for those who may not be able to walk.

For several years, Human Support Services has had a winning float in the Waterloo Homecoming parade. This is in large part thanks to Opal!

She spends countless hours helping to come up with ideas for the yearly float, then helps builds those floats, and makes many of the costumes.

Over the years, Opal has been a Cabbage Patch doll, a baseball catcher, a 1950s dancer in a poodle skirt, Glenda the Good Witch, Betsy Ross, a fairy godmother and Fred Flintstone.

What makes her even more amazing is that her altruism doesn’t stop at the doors of HSS.

She is involved with many other volunteer activities, including Monroe County Relay for Life and Backstoppers.

“I cannot think of a more deserving person with a more generous heart and giving spirit. She is so dedicated to every client that we serve at HSS. And she goes above and beyond for her co-workers as well,” said Anne King, HSS executive director. “All of us at Human Support Services want Opal to know just how much her help means. She works so hard at the events and is always cheerful and helpful. She always has a smile and a kind and encouraging word for others. She is a blessing to the agency and to the clients we serve!”

Cole Retires As HSS Executive Director After 11 Years

September 19th, 2017

Cole Retires As HSS Executive Director After 11 Years

The wooden sign reads, “You have changed the world because you touched our lives.”

The sign, given to Robert Cole at his retirement party on September 15, was the perfect parting gift for the longtime executive director of Human Support Services.

The party itself was a testament to the many lives Cole touched in his 11 years as executive director of HSS. The board room at the nonprofit was filled with staff, clients, board members, local officials and community members eager to offer their gratitude and well wishes.

Cole Retires As HSS Executive Director After 11 YearsWaterloo Mayor Tom Smith presented Cole with a certificate of appreciation that thanked him “for 11 years of outstanding service and dedication to helping the citizens and community of Waterloo, through your successful career at Human Support Services.”

Cole joined HSS after 20 years of leadership roles in community mental health centers in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

During his tenure at HSS Cole led an expansion of the agency’s residential programs and provided strong financial leadership during a prolonged period of financial stress due to State of Illinois funding cutbacks.

Cole is only the second person to fill the leadership role at HSS.  Jim Poschel served as executive director of Human Support Services for the first 33 years.

In his retirement, Cole said he plans to spend time visiting his children and traveling. An avid cyclist, you’ll find him exploring new trails in and around southern Illinois. He’ll also be volunteering his time to his church, St. Paul United Church of Christ in Waterloo, and various community organizations.

Cole Retires As HSS Executive Director After 11 Years

HSS Counseling, Support Can Help Youth Overcome Bullying & Depression

September 5th, 2017


She watches as he slips on his sneakers and pulls on his backpack. In the sunlit kitchen, there’s time for one quick hug between hurried bites of buttered toast.

She pauses, holding him just one second longer than usual, until he grumbles, “Mom! I’m going to be late!”

She grins and holds him at arm’s length so she can peer at his 11-year-old face.

This boy is so different than the one that stood before her just six months ago. This boy doesn’t look scared. He doesn’t look lonely or sad.

This boy is okay. Her son is going to be okay.

Another small piece of the weight she’s been carrying on her heart lifts away.

She stands up a little straighter, offering him a genuine smile and a wave as he darts off to the front yard where the school bus waits.

Six months ago, that school bus filled them both with dread. For her, it meant prodding, coaxing, and eventually, yelling at, her son to get moving.

Mornings were torture for both of them, from the moment she attempted to drag him out of his room, to the two hours it took to get him fed, dressed and ready to get on the bus.

For a year, she had tried everything to make mornings go smoothly – long talks, bribery, punishments – but nothing worked. Every morning he refused to eat breakfast and get dressed in a timely manner. Nearly every other day, he’d complain he didn’t feel well and say he didn’t want to go to school.

Evenings were more of the same. He no longer cared about homework, saying it didn’t matter anyway. He often “forgot” his books at school and spent much of his time alone in his room.

He stopped talking to her and his father, and was happiest lying on his bed with his earphones in all night. He refused to go outside and as time went on, he became an unrecognizable version of the child they’d known.

Then he stopped sleeping.

He’d always been a great sleeper, even as a baby. But now her 10 1/2-year-old rarely slept. He refused to fall asleep at night, and when he did, he woke often, sometimes with terrible dreams.

When his report card came, her A student got mostly Cs.

She knew something was wrong – had known for some time – but the more she tried to talk to him, the angrier he became. Her normally mild-mannered child was now prone to fits of unexplained anger.

His face was pale and hollow. Dark patches circled his eyes. He looked nothing like the happy, smiling boy in the pictures on her mantle. Her heart was heavy with fear and helplessness.

When she called Human Support Services, counselors were able to see him quickly. They helped him open up about the cause of his behavior.

Her son was being bullied at his private middle school. He was depressed and anxious about going to school, and didn’t know how to share his feelings with his parents.

At one point, he admitted to being suicidal.

Thankfully, with support and counseling, this young man developed ways to cope. He learned to become more assertive and confident, and was able to stand up to his bullies. He is opening up about his feelings and has an optimistic view for his life and the future.

She, in turn, has developed strategies for supporting him during these difficult years.

They both still have work to do, but HSS will be there to help them through.

If you or someone you know could benefit from counseling or other support services, please call Human Support Services at 618-939-4444.

Stop Bullying

Pressures of Teen Life Can Worsen Anxiety and Depression

August 22nd, 2017

Teen Blog

Two days. Just 48 hours until school starts again.

In two days I’ll be right back there in that freshly-polished hallway, standing there with a frozen smile on my face, pretending everything is perfect.

I’ll listen as Madison tells me all about her latest boyfriend, and I’ll laugh when Taylor goes on about her epic Snapchat fail.

As far as they’ll be able to tell, I’ll be the same girl they’ve always known – fun, happy, over-achieving, me.

Even if I feel like dying inside, that’s the me they’ll see.

Why would they suspect otherwise? Why wouldn’t I be happy? I don’t even know why I feel this way.

This year should be my year.

I’ll be captain of the volleyball team, editor of the school yearbook, and co-captain of the cheerleading squad. I’ve been waiting for this since I was a freshman.

I have to carry my usual 4.0 GPA, only this year I also have to ace the ACTs. I’m taking AP Spanish and Calculus, and last week I found out I got into a special college prep writing class.

I know colleges look at extracurriculars, so I signed up for the debate team last spring. What’s one more thing? Practices start in three weeks, and Show Choir rehearsals start the week before that.

I’m president of the community service group so I’ll be leading the charge this year on all the volunteer projects for the entire school. Maybe a holiday food drive or a spring recycling effort?

Maybe, if I’m really careful with my scheduling, I can find time to do both. That would look fantastic on my college application.

It’s going to be a busy year, for sure, but I live for this stuff. Stress? I thrive on stress!

At least, that’s what I’ve heard my parents say about me to their friends.

Junior year is going to be my year, right? Right.

Then why, is it getting harder and harder to get out of bed the closer it gets to the first day of school. What is wrong with me?

When I think about school, my friends and the year ahead, I just want to crawl under the covers and hide. And I don’t understand why.

I should be happy. I shouldn’t have to pretend or fake a smile when I’m with my friends. But more and more lately, I do.

I’ll get it together. I have to. No one would understand if I just didn’t show up. No one would understand if I backed out of something – out of everything.

That would be quitting – or worse – failing. And I’d rather die than fail.

I can do this. I have to do this. . .

But what if I can’t?

It’s a misconception that the only teens who struggle with anxiety or  depression are the loners hiding in the shadows of the school cafeteria.

In truth, mental health issues can impact any child, from any family, in any community.

There are many stressors that impact the daily life of the average teen, from college prep and peer pressure, to after-school jobs and social media.

When those stressors pile on an individual already battling anxiety or depression, the result can range from changes in mood and behavior to thoughts of suicide.

Fortunately, with counseling and support, teens can learn ways to cope with depression and anxiety, and find ways to balance stressors.

Human Support Services offers counseling and services to youth and adults struggling with anxiety, depression and other mental health concerns. We can help.

If you have a teen in your life whom could benefit from counseling or mental health services, call us today at 618-939-4444.

Expanding Our Capacity, Serving Our Community

July 20th, 2017


In a family, when one member is sick or troubled, the others rally together to support and uplift their loved one.


James and Tracy open a housewarming gift from a visitor

The same is true for communities. We’ve seen countless examples here in Monroe County of our community rallying together to support a family in need or help a sick or injured child.

That communal selflessness often translates to other types of communities as well.

That’s why Human Support Services is fortunate to be a part of several.

We’re proud to be a part of the generous, supportive community of Monroe County, the geographic location where we serve our clients. But we’re equally grateful to be a part of the nonprofit community in Southwestern Illinois.

We’re fortunate to work alongside organizations who serve our region, from the YMCA and the Monroe County House of Neighborly Service, to our fellow mental health organizations like Human Service Center and Monroe Council for the Handicapped.

James loves his new room at Human Support Services’ new group home


The spacious, comfortable rooms of the new HSS group homes

In a time when many nonprofits are struggling due to the state budget crisis, it has never been more important for our nonprofit community to help one another and fill in to provide services whenever we can.

That’s why when HSS learned a residential home in Evansville would soon be closing its doors, we hoped to find a way we could help the residents who would be displaced.

The spacious, comfortable rooms of the new HSS group homes

At that time, HSS only had housing available for 24 individuals with developmental disabilities.  Twenty-two of those residential openings were filled, but we gladly welcomed two clients from the Evansville home to bring us to capacity.

Then, through a series of fortunate events, we were able to expand our capacity by three more spots, increasing our capacity to 27!

So far, we’ve been able to welcome two more clients from the Evansville residence.

We’re delighted to report that several of these clients have family in Monroe County, which means their new living arrangements give them the opportunity to be closer to their loved ones.

In a time when so many nonprofits are facing uncertainty – and we too have been concerned with the state’s budget crisis – we are proud that we were able to forge ahead and provide homes for as many of our neighbors in need as we could.

The spacious, comfortable rooms of the new HSS group homes

Other organizations and individuals in our community have certainly been there for HSS and our clients many, many times – in ways too numerous to mention.

That’s what a true sense of community means, to do whatever small part you or your organization can to help and keep moving forward when others need you.


The spacious, comfortable rooms of the new HSS group homes