Meet Sonja: From Papa Pal to Papa Corporate

After working as a Papa Pal for several years, Sonja continues to build and nurture connections as a full-time Papa employee.

By Sonja Bauman, a former Papa Pal and current Support Operations Specialist at Papa

Hi, I’m Sonja, a former Papa Pal now working full-time at Papa. Caring for others is a huge part of my life. It runs in my family!

A focus on wellness and social connection

I’m a single mom to my 7-year-old daughter. She has autism, and I dedicate a lot of my time to autism awareness and acceptance. I also spend a lot of time doing special activities with her. Sunday is our Sunday Funday—we always do something special together, and it’s the highlight of my week.

There’s a group in my community that connects children with disabilities with volunteers from the local high school. The children and volunteers play word games together, interact socially, and build friendships. The program reminds me of Papa—it fills a gap that wasn’t covered before, helping children like my daughter foster social connections and build social health.

I’m passionate about overall wellness and well-being, and have seen firsthand the impact of a friend. This is what connects me to Papa. I think it’s important for seniors and other populations to have access to a companion too.

A caregiver at heart and at home

My mother used to be a caregiver to a woman who lived until she was 106. I would take my daughter to visit with her and it meant so much to her. She didn’t have any grandchildren of her own. My mother basically did what we do at Papa for her. She kept her company, helped get her meals together, drove her to breakfast or her hair appointments. She was there for her.

I love helping people, too. It’s what brought me to Papa.

As a single mom, I was in need of part-time work with flexible hours. I looked at several gig jobs, but Papa really stuck out to me. I started during the pandemic in November 2020, taking a lot of virtual visits. Getting those calls meant so much to the members, especially around the holidays.

As I started meeting with members in person, I quickly built connections and had a handful of members who I would see regularly. I would assist them with exercise and daily living activities, and just give them motivation. I’ve heard so many members say “I wouldn’t have left the house if you weren’t coming. But I knew you were, so I got ready.”

I had a member who lived in assisted living and had no family at all. I brought him a card and a balloon on his birthday, and it meant the world to him. Little things like that just mean so much.

I took another member to vote for the first time. That was really special for her, and it was special for me to share that with her.

Joining Papa full time

My situation changed in late 2022 when my daughter’s father passed away. I had been wanting to transition to a full-time position at Papa for a while. But when this happened, getting full-time work was no longer something I wanted to do, it was something I had to do.

I was fortunate to interview with Papa for a corporate role, and was offered the job as a Support Operations Specialist in the billing department. Of course I accepted, and started in January 2023. I feel even more fortunate that I still love the work I do for Papa.

I can’t count how many coworkers have reached out to say how happy they are to see I’ve joined the corporate team or let me know they were here for me through my daughter’s father’s passing. 

Even today, I got a call from my daughter’s school letting me know she was having a rough day. I always try to let my supervisor know ahead of time if there may be a hiccup. He was awesome. He just told me “you’re such a good mom” and thanked me for being in communication.

Just like with our members, these small gestures of kindness mean so much.

Building connections for life

It’s powerful to do something that I know is helping people. I’m not directly meeting with members as a Papa Pal anymore, but I am making sure our Pals get paid for their important work, and that is fulfilling.

Plus, I still keep in touch with some of my regular members. One member in particular I call often to check in on. I can’t go too long without seeing her. She recently went through a stay in intensive care and I was there for her. She always calls me her best friend. What we have is really special. 

This has always been more than a job to me. I’ve found at Papa, we really do connect with our members—and to each other. It’s been a wonderful journey.