CRYSTAL LAKE - In April 2018, Claudette Mills moved from McHenry Villa to The Springs in Crystal Lake in order to receive a higher level of care.

The 80-year-old former Johnsburg resident knew it was the right thing for her to do, but she also knew she would miss the relationships she had cultivated at McHenry Villa. When the time came for Mills to settle in to her new home, she got by with a little help from her friends.

Each month, Olga Hankins, 91, Karen Templeman, 79, Geraldine O’Connell, 85, and Verda Longley, 96, take a ride with Nancy Hiatt, Mills’ health care advocate and care manager, from McHenry Villa to The Springs to visit Mills.

Hiatt is founder of The Kare Group in Woodstock. Hiatt’s team engages with clients to help them and their loved ones navigate the health care system. Hiatt began working with Mills in the fall of 2016.

When Mills was transferred to The Springs, Hiatt’s services ceased, however, she wanted to help Mills keep the connection she had with her friends, deciding to take it upon herself to organize and execute these meetings because she said it was the right thing to do.

“It’s so heartwarming. It’s friendship,”

Hiatt said. “This is about their friend that had to move for health reasons, but we found a way to keep them together as best we could. They fold down their walkers and load up and off we go!”

The group first bonded when Mills taught them games they could play, such as Rummikub, Mexican Dominoes and Yahtzee.

“She’s been our good friend for quite a while now,” Longley said.

“She had to leave us because she needed more help for her health care, and thanks to Nancy, we get to go be with Claudette and play our games and have pizza parties. It means so much to all of us to go be with Claudette again.”

Mills was at McHenry Villa for 11 years before moving to the The Springs. Mills said she always looks forward to their visits and talks to them on the phone when she can.

When able, Mills is bused over to McHenry Villa, as well.

When McHenry Villa flooded in September, McHenry Villa residents were placed in hotels during repairs.

The women met at the Hampton Inn to play dominoes and eat together.

Mills said it was a big “to-do” and very exciting.

“It means a lot to me that Nancy does this. I don’t get to see them much,” Mills said. “I miss everybody over there. I look forward to hearing about what’s going on at the Villa, who’s still there and who has passed on. We play games and have pizza. We have a lot of fun. I always look forward to it.”