When Benita Muñiz retired to Questa in October 2020, she jumped headfirst into becoming an active community member. She generously shares her considerable talents, abilities, and experience across different venues. Her name and photos of her show up in the Questa Del Rio News often because of her many volunteer activities.
Benita started volunteering first at the North Central Food Pantry because of her sisters, Jeannie Masters and Yolanda Acosta. Las tres hermanas have all made a positive mark on our community. This month we highlight Benita, welcome her back to her homeland, and let her know how much we appreciate her.
Benita was born in Cerro. Her family moved to Colorado when she was four. She visited frequently with her family and has many fond memories of her youth here. Benita had a career as a hairdresser for 32 years, during which time listening became an asset.
In 2000, the Denver District Attorney’s office hired Benita as a Community Justice Advocate, work that she truly loved. She retired the first time in 2011, which didn’t last long… She just couldn’t help helping! Some of the work she did included engaging minority residents in addressing public safety and quality of life issues affecting their communities and improving services for victims of crime. She has always had a big heart and found that she had a knack for helping people navigate complicated systems. She is a natural networker and developed deep-rooted relationships throughout the Denver Latino community.
Throughout her years of advocacy, she has worked with government agencies and non-profits, including the Denver Foundation and the Colorado Trust Foundation. Her roles have ranged from administrative assistant to program manager to consultant. Most recently Benita retired again, and made a quick getaway to Questa, before someone else tried to hire her!
Benita says this about herself, “I am reliable; that is important to me.” She is indeed a person of integrity. Since landing in Questa and becoming a hard-working volunteer at the Food Pantry—cleaning, packing boxes, driving to Taos to transport food, and working on distribution days—she is also an active member of the Questa Creative Council. She helps with membership, community outreach, and with events. You may have seen her friendly face at Chris Arellano’s Nuevo Americana Music Festival in Costilla, where the QCC set up an outreach booth.
Benita showed up for that first cold, rainy Community Connections Day back in April, and she was hooked. It was a meaningful experience for her and she knew she was in the right place; she decided to get more involved, and now Community Connection Days wouldn’t be the same without her. Like most ofour humble volunteers, Benita likes to share the glory. She credits Nancy Parker specifically (our May 2020 Volunteer of the Month) who she calls her sidekick, for doing so much to make Connection Days so successful, and Claire CotÃ© and LEAP and all the organizations involved, including Taos Behavioral Health. She says everyone works together with the village of Questa to create real transformation in the community.
This summer, Benita began working two days a week at the Questa Visitor Center, in a role that has become known as being an “ambassador.” Like fellow ambassador Margo Cardenas, who has been at the Visitor Center for the last four summers, her job of meeting and greeting visitors and sharing information about our area hardly seems like work.
She has recently stepped up to help The Questa Del Rio News with mailing out newspaper subscriptions every month, with the official title of “Snail Mailer.”
Service is an essential part of who Benita is. “Sometimes we have skills and experience that people need. Volunteering is important. It inspires me to see people come together, making them healthier and stronger together—that’s what makes the world a better place.