Meet Ida: Advocating for Her Members at Every Turn

A determined ally, Papa Pal Ida changed one member’s life for the better in just one day, and has a history of helping members solve their biggest challenges.

Ida and her grandmother.

When Papa Pal Ida’s grandmother was dying, she told Ida, “Don’t forget the people you need to help.” Ida took those words to heart and sees her work as a Papa Pal as keeping her promise to her grandmother.

Caring for her grandmother shaped Ida’s life

At 50 years old, Ida has always had a huge heart for older adults. Ida’s grandmother, who she grew up with, was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s 15 years ago and passed away two and half. When she was first diagnosed, Ida quit her job in retail management to learn everything she could about the disease in order to advocate and care for her grandmother, who lived a lot longer than her doctors predicted.

Now Ida takes the knowledge she gained while caring for her grandmother—and the sense of service she grew up with—and applies it to her work as a Papa Pal.

As a retail manager in the past, Ida would take Papa visits between shifts when she could. She also worked as a Pal while caring for her grandmother. Three months ago, she went back to retail management, but still finds time to visit her Papa members. The flexibility of Papa makes this possible, and the purpose it gives Ida keeps her coming back.

One life-changing day

The first time Ida met a Papa member, who we’ll call Miss Mabel, Mabel was living alone in a third-floor walk-up apartment with no elevator. She was in her 90s. Not only that, but her apartment was freezing; there was no hot water; she had no food, and no one to take her to the store. 

Thankfully, Ida was equipped, determined, and ready to advocate for Mabel every step of the way—and she wasted no time.

She learned Miss Mabel had applied for food assistance a decade prior, but never heard back. Ida took Mabel to the grocery store and from the parking lot, called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) office, which she was confidence Mabel would qualify for. “I shared [Mabel’s] story and advocated for her and said, ‘I can get her there. What do we need to do?’” Ida says Mabel’s story touched everyone she spoke with, and they got emergency food stamps—and groceries—within hours by simply calling and going to the office to file the necessary paperwork. “She qualified with flying colors,” Ida says. To celebrate, they went to Whataburger for lunch, which made Miss Mabel’s day.

Next up: the apartment management company. They had ignored Mabel’s complaints about the lack of heat and hot water for a long time, and Ida believed this was because they knew Miss Mabel had no one in her corner to fight for her. Well, now she did. Ida got the heat turned on in Mabel’s apartment and told the company she would come every day to make sure it stayed on—and would call her attorney if she needed to. 

Ida also contacted a friend who manages apartments for older adults and found a new apartment in a different complex that was much better suited for Mabel. It was on the first floor and so much easier for her to get in and out of. Ida got in touch with Mabel’s great-niece—her power of attorney—and was able to make it official.

Ida doesn’t like to think of what would have happened to Mabel without her and Papa. She could have starved or frozen to death.

“God sent me an angel today,” Ida recalled Miss Mabel saying. She wishes she could help everybody like that. 

Ida cares for her members like they’re her own grandparent

Ida often feels overwhelmed by how many people are in need of resources—some more than others—but she does everything she can to help. “I’d be taking care of my grandmother if she was alive,” Ida says, “so I'm going to take care of someone else’s grandmother. That’s how I see it.”

She met one gentleman who only spoke Spanish and was in desperate need of help. He was bedridden and his living conditions were unsafe. Ida helped this member’s children wash his sheets and disinfect his home and belongings, then helped them get a home health aide for him. They knew he needed one, but hadn’t known who to call or how. The aide was covered through his insurance, but “so many people don’t know about all of the benefits they have,” Ida says.

Because she’s bilingual, Ida has been able to help several members like this one read and understand their mail and policies by translating them into English. She has a long history of connecting members to resources and helping them live more comfortably and peacefully—and letting them know that someone cares.

What if each of us went the extra mile?

“I always feel amazing after my visits,” Ida says. “I feel good because I know I’m keeping my promise to my grandmother.” Her grandmother always told her to take pride in whatever she does and to do it well. “Whatever you give comes back,” she’d always say.

Ida laments that people often forget about older adults. She doesn’t want that for them, so she sits with them, listens to them, and learns from them. “I want somebody to give back to me, too, when I get old,” she says.” Life is a complete circle—we’ll all be there one day.”

If we all went the extra mile and cared for those around us—even just one person—imagine what we could accomplish together.