Meet Julie and Lauren: Friends from Soul to Soil

Papa member Julie and her Papa Pal Lauren dug deep—both literally and figuratively—and found a soulful connection.

Lauren and Julie.

Meet Papa Member Julie

Julie, a retired woman in her mid-50s, began struggling with mental health issues after her father, whom she was very close to, passed away in 2015 from prostate cancer. A caretaker at heart, Julie had become his guardian at the end of his life. She and her dad had been like two peas in a pod, she said, and when he passed, the grief hit her hard.

“That’s when my anxiety really kicked in,” Julie says. A few years later, she lost her temporary job because the anxiety had gotten so bad. At that point, she and her husband moved from Connecticut to Florida, where they live now.

Julie first heard about Papa through her health insurance and was mainly interested in getting some help around the house. Feeling that she no longer has that spring in her step can make it hard to get things done, so she knew she could use a hand. 

She never expected to find a dear friend.

Meet Papa Pal Lauren

Lauren is a retired Registered Nurse with experience in home health. She was looking for flexible work while her two kids were in school, and came across Papa. 

Lauren cherishes the opportunity to serve people in her community and believes that her role as a Papa Pal has had a positive impact on not just her members, but her as well. She has formed deep bonds with her members and honed her soft skills in the process.

“I’m there to provide a service for my members, and it keeps me humble,” she says. “I’m able to meet some great people because of it. Everybody needs a buddy, particularly older adults, especially when they’re separated from family.”

Lauren is on a personal growth journey and feels like Papa has played an important role in that.

Julie and Lauren felt an instant connection

Julie says she and Lauren hit it off from the first minute they met. “She came in like a breath of fresh air,” Julie says. “She’s like a ray of sunshine.”

Lauren helps with anything and everything Julie needs. She walks the dog. She helps Julie organize her house. They run errands together. With her anxiety, Julie doesn’t drive anywhere alone, so depending on how she’s feeling, she’ll either go into the stores with Lauren or stay in the car. “Lauren is very understanding about it,” she says. “She has that compassion.”

But their visits are not all chores and errands. They often stretch and do yoga together. And they’ll go to the park and grab lunch. “I look forward to her coming so much,” Julie says. “I would love her to be here all the time.” 

When they’re not together, Lauren will send texts that make Julie smile. Julie loves Lauren’s authenticity and the way she motivates her through tough times. “Every woman needs another woman to vent to and to just have as a friend,” Julie says. “It’s like we’re twins.”

Gardening brings them joy—and brings them together

Julie had always wanted to work on her front yard, but didn’t have any gardening experience. When Lauren pulled up for their first visit, Julie was outside trying to spruce up her garden, and Lauren offered to help. They got down in the dirt together, and Lauren got to tell her about her love of gardening.

Lauren has loved gardening since she was a preteen. Diagnosed with an autoimmune disease at an early age, instead of going out with other kids, she would stay at home and garden with her mom. “Being able to share this now with my members, like Julie, is very exciting,” Lauren shares.

“I tend to have a black thumb,” Julie says, “but Lauren gave me the bug for gardening. I’ve learned so much from her about how to take care of plants.”

After laying down some black dirt as a fresh canvas to work with, that’s when the wheels started turning. Together they’ve turned Julie’s front yard into a beautiful landscape full of trees, bushes, and all kinds of beautiful flowers. They added a bird bath, a solar fountain, a hummingbird feeder, dragonflies, and fairy lights. They’ve even painted rocks, created a fairy garden, and painted a mural on Julie’s bench!

It’s not only aesthetically pleasing; the landscape is symbolic of Lauren and Julie’s relationship.

Their friendship keeps growing and blossoming

Julie and Lauren's garden.

Lauren has become an important person in Julie's life, and Julie is so grateful to have her. The support she provides is so much more than driving to a store or helping around the house. During challenging periods of anxiety and depression, Lauren has been a source of encouragement and inspiration for Julie—and a safe space for her to heal and grow.

Lauren sees it too. “I’ve 100% seen a difference since I first started visiting Julie,” she says. “She is so outgoing and creative—but in a way, she's stuck in her home because of her anxiety. Being able to pull her out and show her new things, she doesn’t seem as stressed or worried. I am really proud of her.”

Julie has said meeting Lauren has made such a difference in her life. And the feeling is mutual.

“We’re learning new things together,” Lauren says. “Her good habits have rubbed off on me, and vice versa. There’s no one like Julie.”