By Paul Schankman
Just about a block or so down a country road off the main road through Waterloo, Illinois, sits a bed and breakfast with an unusual name, and an extraordinary mission.
It is called the See More Inn, and its staff is made up of clients from Human Support Services, known as HSS, a private, not-for-profit organization that helps intellectually and developmentally disabled people in Monroe County.
One if its main missions is to find employment for clients who want to work. Over the years, HSS has found a variety of local businesses willing to hire people with special needs.
But by creating the See More Inn, HSS clients are now running their own business.
It is part of an overall philosophy known as person-centered planning.
“Our employees who work here take so much pride in the work they do and they really believe this bed and breakfast is their bed and breakfast,” said Anne King, Executive Director for HSS.
The house itself was built in 1875. It became the See More Inn in 2018.
The See More Inn offers travelers a choice of four bedrooms, all named for people who had something inspiring to say about the disabled, including Mr. Rogers and actor Christopher Reeve. Their quotes are displayed in the rooms that carry their names.
“We truly believe that everybody has a gift and they all have a calling. It is really our place to find out how that person can use that gift and shine their light on our community,” said Craig Laskowski, HSS Director of Quality and Training.
There is one staff member at the See More who is not a client, but she is an HSS employee, who serves as innkeeper.
“(Our clients) take charge,” said innkeeper Glenda Bauza. “I kind of stand back and give them a little direction every once in a while, but they know what they are doing.”
A local businessman who recently booked the entire inn for a group of contest winners, calls his decision to send them to the See More Inn a “no brainer.”
“You are going to feel good about yourself when you stay here. And you get to interact with the people and you see how they care about you,” said Mark Lengacher of Schneider’s Quality Meats and Catering.
“It makes me feel really good,” said Linda Hatch, an HSS client who cleans the inn. “I don’t want to sit at home all the time,” she said.
“It’s a good cause for the handicapped, to help other people with their achievements and goals,” said Linda Darnell, another HSS client. She works at the See More Inn as a cook.
While they do get travelers stopping by for a quick stay, a surprising amount of the inn’s business has been wedding parties.
So why is it called the See More Inn?
They idea grew out of a quote someone brought to the attention of the HSS staff as they were voting on new names. It was written by Robert Hensel, who is a disabled poet.
“There is no greater disability in society than the inability to see a person as more,” Hensel wrote.
“They are people just like you and me,” said King. “They have dreams and desires and gifts and talents and they want to live those out just like you are me; they have goals they want to achieve just like you and me and the See More Inn is a place where they can do just that.”