Some see the world as broken into those above them and those below them. There are people with more money, more education, and there are people with less.
No stranger to stratification, Blanca Moye is also one of those people. What sets her apart, though, is how she brings people together.
While many of the valley’s safety net programs can be traced back to Moye, it was on a whim that she first came to Jackson Hole.
Receiving her first work visa by raffle in 1999, at 28, was a surprise, as she’d forgotten she’d applied. But she came for what she thought would be six months at the urging of her grandmother. It wouldn’t hurt to improve her English, she thought.
Moye left a good job prospect to teach literacy and GED degrees to employees of a prominent water bottle corporation in Mexico City, and headed to Jackson. She also left behind her two kids, 8 and 4 at the time.
With her children in the care of her mother and husband, and her godmother Carmina Oaks waiting for her in Jackson, she took the leap.
In 1999, Moye was part of the early wave of Mexican immigrants to put down roots in the Jackson region to work in hospitality, not agriculture, in what was soon to become the county with the greatest wealth and wealth disparity in the country.
Moye had not realized just how much money American jobs paid in pesos. She started sending money home after her first payday for housekeeping at the former Anglers Inn to pay three rents, two for herself and her children and one for her mother’s apartment in Mexico City. Besides housekeeping from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., there was bussing and cleaning dishes at the former Anthony’s Italian Restaurant from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m.
She picked up a third job with a family, and became a night manager for the Anglers Inn.
Graco Vernal, Moye’s husband, came at the end of her first month, and six months later she renewed her visa and started saving for her kids’ papers.
Despite how much she was working, Moye’s volunteering started the day after she arrived in Jackson, when she attended a wedding as Oaks’ “plus one” in a snow-covered cabin in Kelly.
The wedding was Pati Rocha’s, now an outreach coordinator for Teton County Library. The two became instant friends, and Rocha invited Moye to help answer calls for songs and shoutouts over the air on Sunday nights for the KHOL show “Al Ritmo de la Montaña.”
Over the years, Rocha said, she has seen Moye eager to grow and encourage others to do the same.
Despite Oaks’ advice that “You need to learn to say no,” Moye continued picking up volunteer gigs, even acting as an informal go-between for police and people who spoke only Spanish and were pulled over for minor traffic violations. She stepped up to give her time to the Free Clinic and the Victim Witness program, attending monthly meetings for the Latino Service Network, which grew into groups like the Networks of Care and Systems of Education. That work led to volunteer gigs running events for the Latino Resource Center and doing medical interpretation for El Puente, two nonprofits that now are folded into leadership under One 22.
From knocking on doors to bring the federal Head Start program to Teton County to hosting cooking nights for parents with the Children’s Learning Center, Moye has never stopped embedding in the community’s basic needs.
Moye became a full-time resident in 2004, once her children had moved to Jackson, and became a citizen in 2010, crossing the state line in the meantime. She has lived in Victor, Idaho, ever since.
As new nonprofits have popped up, Moye has followed, doing outreach and interpretation for ShelterJH and serving as a mobilizer for Voices JH for two years.
You know you’ve reached super-volunteer status when the lines between work and volunteering start to blur.
“Everything I started doing years ago, like volunteer time, now is my job,” Moye laughed, “I think I never never learned to say no.”
It’s hard to be a community builder without also making people laugh, which Moye does seemingly without trying. Even talking about the uphill battle of integration for the Latino and immigrant communities, she blends sincerity with an inviting sense of humor.
“I’m pretty sure everybody has their own issues,” she said.
Running for office is perhaps the only community opportunity Moye has avoided, though not for lack of being asked. It’s not the atmosphere that bothers her. At 18, Moye was a meeting host and secretary for the Mexican Congress, work she found both interesting and fulfilling. Then she became pregnant and stopped work and continued studying through college.
Simply, she said, her first love is working with people in the field. She thinks she might be frustrated by the pace of bureaucracy, and she likes to react.
In Victor, Moye has stretched her web even further, volunteering for the Education Foundation of Teton Valley, in addition to serving on the Community Foundation on the special grants board and the library board on the east side of the Tetons.
Her son Irwing says he’s been stopped by strangers who relay the impact his mother has had on their life.
“Not that it’s a popularity contest,” he said. “Everybody knows Blanca.”
Popularity has nothing to do with Moye’s philosophy, but it’s certainly a byproduct.
To Moye, everyone is both a teacher and a student, a listener and a sharer. As she works by your side she expects you to do the same.
In Wyoming, where loneliness seems to be embedded in both natural and psychological landscapes, Moye said isolation is “not in my dictionary.”
True connection takes a certain level of vulnerability, she said, from both sides.
“As a human being we don’t like to ask for help,” she said. “We feel shame and we feel like nobody’s going to understand us.”
Even her sentences share that balanced rhythm, which is probably why she’s so good at teaching CPR and first aid, classes she now gives away for free, or volunteering mindfulness and meditation courses with Becoming Jackson Hole.
“I always try to see who can support me,” she said, “and how I can support them. … That’s where integration happens.”
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