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.


Morgan’s Story

November 21st, 2017


When the door opened, her eyes nervously scanned the counselor’s office. At 10, she was already cautious and skeptical of strangers.

Satisfied that her surroundings were safe, Morgan quietly slipped into a chair without a word. She fixed her gaze on her tennis shoes and the dirty hem of her jeans.

Her silence added plenty to what counselors already knew.

Morgan’s family life had been troubled and unstable. She had moved from home to home, and had been passed from one foster family to the next for most of her young life.

She was shy, and the look on her face made it clear she had no interest in talking about her family, her life or her fears for the future. Not today – maybe not ever.

Adults in her life thus far had disappointed her, and she wasn’t about to open up to another one.

Morgan fiddled with her ponytail, trying in vain to tuck away some of the wild brown hairs slipping out of the band.

She shuffled in her seat, growing more uneasy as the moments passed in silence.

Then the counselor did something unexpected.

The counselor stood up and pulled a baseball from a duffle bag under her desk. She held it out and gestured toward Morgan.

Morgan’s expression swung from surprise to delight and back to skepticism before she settled on a small shy smile.

With an encouraging nod from the counselor, Morgan stood up slowly, not entirely convinced this wasn’t some kind of trick.

She gingerly opened her hands. When the counselor gently tossed the ball to her, she caught it, squeezing it tightly in her small hands.

For a moment, they locked eyes and shared a smile.

Soon, they were tossing the ball back and forth with ease. Morgan began to relax. Before she knew it, the session was over.

That session was nearly a decade ago.

Morgan has been seeing her Human Support Services counselor ever since.

The trust slowly forged between that shy young girl and her counselor became so significant that at some points in Morgan’s life, it has been the only consistent adult relationship she has had.

Over the years, the HSS counselor helped Morgan through crises in her home life and stood by her as she navigated all the issues teenage girls face every day.

Morgan went on to excel in school, and in the words of her counselor, has blossomed into a kind and considerate young woman.

Those who knew that shy tomboy would scarcely recognize the polished, well-spoken college freshman.

“I was with her for a very long time,” her counselor said. “She knew she could come in here and talk to me.  She could have gone down so many other paths, but she is going to do wonderful in her life.”

Your generosity allows HSS to give outpatient counseling clients like Morgan a chance at a happier, brighter future. There are many other men, women, youth and families in our communities who need our help to find a renewed sense of wellness and hope for the future.

Join us in investing in our future, and help us build a better, stronger community – one story at a time. Please donate to the Human Support Services annual holiday appeal.

*Note:  Some details have been altered to protect the identity of real clients.


Alex’s Story

November 21st, 2017


Real men aren’t supposed to be bothered by silly things like nightmares.

Men of his father’s generation certainly didn’t let “feelings” get in the way of responsibilities like work and family.

And yet, here he was.

The nightmares were relentless, torturing his sleep.

The days weren’t any better, though, because memories of the trauma haunted his waking hours.

Alex tried pretending it had never happened. In the two years since it occurred, he had gotten pretty good at “acting” like everything was fine.

But then the guilt, shame and fear, started eating away at him. As time passed, it got harder – not easier – to pretend everything was fine.

He felt angry. In truth, he felt angry a lot.

There were more and more days when he didn’t want to get out of bed.

It wasn’t long before it was just easier to have a drink or two to forget about it. That helped for a while.

But then he needed more drinks to keep the thoughts at bay.

The more he drank, the worse he felt. The worse he felt, the more he drank.

His wife didn’t understand why he called into work so much. Why couldn’t he get up and help more around the house? Why couldn’t he just get over it?

Even his kids seemed disappointed in him most of the time.

Their disappointment only made him feel worse about himself. Those feelings turned into more anger.

He couldn’t get out of bed most days and stopped caring whether or not he lost his job, his wife or his kids.

By the time Alex started counseling at Human Support Services, he had given up hope. He was doubtful that there was anything or anyone that could pull him from this dark hole he’d been living in for so long.

Today, Alex has hope.

He is midway through treatment for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. His counselors say he has been making great strides.

Alex conquered the biggest part of the program – facing, identifying and telling the story of his trauma.

Since then, he has been working to repair his family relationships and has been slowly putting his life back together. He has identified what his triggers are, and is working on ways to navigate around them and manage his reactions.

He doesn’t call in to work as often, and is able to see how PTSD was impacting his life.

For Alex, working through the counseling program and PTSD curriculum at HSS has given him hope and allowed him to see light at the end of the tunnel.

There are others out there like Alex who feel lost in the darkness. Through no fault of their own, they struggle with mental illness or trauma. They need help finding their way back into the light, and you can help.

Join Human Support Services in our efforts to ensure that every individual who comes through our doors for mental or behavioral health services is given the very best guidance and tools for recovery and relief.

You can help build better lives – one story at a time.

Contribute to our annual holiday appeal today – change a life tomorrow.


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