FAIRFIELD--A Fairfield Uber driver is making a lasting impact on her customers.
Della Pagano, better known as 'Mama P,' has become popular among Fairfield University and Sacred Heart University students.
Pagano, who also holds a full-time job at LifeCare in Shelton, began working for Uber when her daughters went off to college. The side job allows Pagano to connect with young people, as she did when her daughters lived at home.
"All of a sudden, I felt like I was back with my daughters home and all their friends and all their friends in the car," said Pagano.
What initially began as rides in 2014 for the college students -- whom Pagano affectionately calls her "kids" -- soon became a much bigger commitment.
"[I'll] make them a home-cooked meal, do their laundry, get them to the doctors," said Pagano. She has even hemmed pants for young men before school dances, baked lasagna, and come out in her pajamas just to give a ride.
Her goal, she said, is to make the students as comfortable as possible away from home. Those motherly gestures have helped Pagano establish relationships with not only the students she drives, but also their parents, who trust Pagano to be another set of eyes on their children.
"She's like a second mom," said Nicole Aragones, a Fairfield University student from Peru. "She's a second mom we never had."
"I texted her [that] I needed to be picked up from the ferry, and when she came and got me, she told me how she left work early just so she could pick me up," said Fairfield sophomore John Delaney.
Pagano said students often open up to her, asking her for advice about their problems. "You can tell her more than you would tell her mom I think, which is nice," said Fairfield student Alexa Kapuscinski. "It's kind of like a friend, too."
"They'll tell me about the boy they like or a boy they broke up with or a class they're having trouble with," explained Pagano. "And I listen and I council them as best I can."
Pagano said she has, at times, reached out to students' parents if she has any concerns about what she's been told, understanding that there is a certain line she cannot cross. She added that she helps make students feel safe, something parents and students appreciate. "The girls would get in the car and say, 'Oh my gosh, I'm so glad to have a woman [driver],'" said Pagano.
Pagano said her job is not about Uber or the money, but is simply about making sure the kids have what they need. "It's like the most rewarding thing I can honestly say I've ever done, other than being a mom to my real children," said Pagano. "It's fabulous."