Meet Juanita: A Life Dedicated to Service

A retired career military person with 28 years of service, Juanita found a new purpose in serving the older adult population as a Papa Pal.

By Papa Pal Juanita

Hi, my name is Juanita, and service is what brings me joy.

How I knew Papa was right for me

I am a career military person who retired in 2020 after 28 years of service. While serving, it was always on my radar to help those who I believe are in the two most vulnerable populations in our society—children and older adults. So, in 2019 while still on active duty, I started advocating for abused and neglected kids. After retirement, when I had more free time, I decided to focus on serving the older adult population.

While scrolling on the internet late one night, I came across Papa, and I knew it was destiny. Becoming a Pal was something I could do that was more accessible than volunteering at a residential facility—and it is flexible, which is important to me since I spend a lot of time traveling. I signed up soon after and it has been a great experience so far.

The people I’ve met and ways I’ve helped them

I’ve shown up to some interesting situations as a Papa Pal. What matters most to me is that I’m able to be present, and offer support to people in their time of need.

I recall a time when I arrived at a Papa member’s home, and he was anxious. He needed a ride to what he termed a “life or death” medical appointment. When I knocked on the door of his apartment, his wife opened the door, greeting me with a smile and a sigh of relief. He thanked me profusely with tears in his eyes when he realized I was there to transport and support him.

I was with a Papa member when she learned she had come out of remission from cancer. I was able to be with and comfort her until she could get home to her adult son who could provide ongoing support.

On Thanksgiving, to ensure a member did not spend the holiday alone I provided a Pal visit. As a result of military deployments and assignments, I know firsthand how lonely it can be when you’re by yourself on special days usually spent with family and friends.

Driving Papa members during visits to doctors’ appointments, to church, to run errands or wherever else they need to go brings me great enjoyment. These visits provide me with an opportunity to meet new people and to hear about their lives. Sometimes I help them with tasks around the house, and other times I’m just there to be a listening ear or to assist them with their devices. Not every senior citizen has remaining family members or relatives who routinely check on them. I’m happy that I can be a friend or surrogate family member to make sure they’re ok and that their needs are being met.

Being a Pal is a lot of fun too. While helping a member who had physical limitations set up and execute a Christmas party, I was able to join in the festivities and create lasting memories. We had a great time and laughed a lot.

What Papa means to me

I love that I’ve found a way to serve people who need what I have to offer—time, an able body, comfort, companionship, and support. Several members have asked that I return for future visits, and that warms my heart.

I recently recommended Papa to a friend of mine who signed up. I’ve had a really good experience, and I’m happy to share the benefits of being a Pal with others.

Not only are we helping people, but in doing so I feel fulfilled and rewarded too…. it’s an even exchange.