By Steve Stein
After losing her home to a tornado last November, Bessie Bates moved to The Villas of Holly Brook in Washington in order to live near her family. The family-owned and operated assisted living community has become almost like a second family to her. “I’m comfortable,” she said.
Washington’s EF-4 tornado struck the day after The Villas celebrated its grand opening on Nov. 16. Fortunately, the new residential facility was not in the twister’s path, but because of the extent of the storm’s devastation in the area, the new senior community was pressed into service as an emergency shelter. It became a base for rescue workers, volunteers, and neighbors displaced by the storm, providing a place to shower, do laundry, charge cellphones, and connect to Wi-Fi (wireless internet).
Some members of Operation Barbecue Relief, a not-for-profit group of competitive barbecue lovers who feed people in need, spent a week there. Team Rubicon, a group of military veterans who respond to disasters, used The Villas as a place to shower and eat. State Park District employees from across Illinois also set up shop at The Villas, and neighbors and community members also sought refuge there.
Staff members volunteered, cooking meals for first responders and neighbors. In honor of its efforts following the tornado, The Villas received the 2013 Member of the Year Award from the Senior Care Network.
Some tornado victims felt so at home, they stayed, becoming The Villas’ first permanent residents once the assisted living facility received its license from the Illinois Department of Public Health on Dec. 6.
Owned by Reggie and Martha Phillips, the 50-unit apartment community offers comfort, privacy, dignity, the finest amenities, and essential services to residents age 55 and older. Their goal is to provide the right balance between independence and support, taking into account the needs and individual styles of their residents.
Even better, it offers a personalized home. Spacious floor plan options include one- and two-bedroom apartments and two-bedroom deluxe living areas. Each is unfurnished so residents can decorate their space in their own personal style. Bringing their furniture and personal belongings helps them acclimate more quickly and allows them to feel truly at home.
Having moved from a small apartment, Ruth Julien is impressed with the size and layout of her apartment at The Villa. “I love having the large walk-in closet and nice-sized kitchenette,” she said.
In addition to a roomy bedroom with walk-in closet, each apartment is appointed with a refrigerator, microwave, commodious safety-equipped bathroom, cable access, and individual heating and cooling units.
An on-site beauty and barbershop provides residents a convenient place for their styling needs without the hassle of leaving the property. There’s also a beautifully landscaped patio area that can be used for grilling or just enjoying a sunny day.
The outdoor space benefits pet owners. Darlene Feser said one of the main reasons she moved to The Villas was so her dog, Peanut, could come with her.
Rates at The Villas are all-inclusive, including utilities except for phone service. Housekeeping, laundry, and linen service are provided, as well as free scheduled local transportation. Not only are the apartments maintenance-free, but The Villas also maintains the grounds.
Jung Lee said he likes the fact that everything is included in the price of his apartment. “Not worrying about the extra bills is nice,” he said.
Not worrying about medical emergencies is also nice. Certified nursing assistants are available around the clock. In addition, residents can access assistance via a personal response system, a pendant worn around their necks, whether for emergencies or other needs.
Residents can request assistance from well-trained professional staff members with activities of daily living tasks like bathing, dressing, grooming, and taking medications. Those who have difficulty walking can be aided by a staff escort to the central dining room, where three healthy meals cooked mostly from scratch are served each day, under the supervision of a registered dietician. Most menus feature comfort foods, such as residents’ favorites like pork tenderloin, mashed potatoes, fruit salad, bacon, sausage, apple pie, and lemon bars. Sugar-free options are available.
Staff members made every effort to get to know residents on a personal level to make them as comfortable as possible. To keep residents happy and healthy, the staff organizes local outings and conducts group activities such as Bingo and dances designed to benefit body and mind. Special ceremonies mark significant events, such as the Balloon Release in Memorial of 9/11.
Movies are shown nightly in the Theatre Room, and the Fitness Center helps residents stay in shape. Helen Elliot said the exercise program has helped her a lot.
If they prefer to choose their own activities, residents have unrestricted access to common areas that can used for everything from hobbies to conversations with other residents and visiting family members. Some residents are learning to shoot pool on the facility’s pool table.
The main hub of activity is the Four Seasons room — a favorite gathering place for parties and family get-togethers. Big windows offer an unimpeded view of the courtyard, raised garden, and fireplace. Seniors who enjoy gardening will appreciate the ease of maintaining their crops in the raised beds. Inside, the large, open space furnished with plush couches and chairs are perfect for gathering around a fireplace during cold weather months.
A private dining room offers another entertaining space for birthday and anniversary celebrations and other special occasions.
One of the many benefits of the scheduled activities and common areas is to keep residents from being isolated and lonely. Beulah “Boots” Orren said she loves all the activities at The Villas and she now has a good friend next door to her apartment.
At the Villas, residents are treated like family, with dignity and respect by caring staff. Evelyn Hamilton said likes the friendliness of the staff “and the homey feel of the place.”
In addition to the Washington location, The Villas operates assisted living facilities in the downstate Illinois communities of Chatham, Effingham, Herrin, Marshall, Monticello, Newton, and Shelbyville. Each has a full-time executive director responsible for the day-to-day operations and staffing around the clock.
Washington’s new executive director, Natalya Malakhova, is a former occupational therapy assistant in Peoria and was once the owner of Russian-English Language Services and Rainbow Fine Arts and Dance Studio in Eureka.
Dedicated service by all the staff is part of the reason residents love living in The Villas. With 24-hour staffing, residents — and their loved ones — can rest assured that they have access to medical assistance whenever they need it.
The facility is bright, cheerful, and vibrant. An inclusive atmosphere allows residents to be social in a relaxed setting, without sacrificing their privacy or independence.
There are so many reasons to love it, sometimes it’s difficult to choose just one. As Dorothy Foster says, “I really just like it here.”
For more information on The Villas of Holly Brook, call 309-241-2004 or visit www.villasofhollybrook.com. The Villas of Holly Brook is located at 1285 Independence Court, Washington, IL, as well as other locations throughout downstate Illinois.