Having lost everything, Jon and Janae Moss now give back abundantly
The world is filled with everyday heroes, those quiet souls who go about doing good deeds and changing lives without aspirations of notoriety or fanfare. Jon and Janae Moss are two such heroes.
The couple has learned through tough experiences that giving back to their community is important, and they do it vigorously.
During this September’s Day of Caring, Jon Moss and his crew from RBM Building Services took a quarter-acre of land at the Aspire Home that had been overgrown with weeds and cleared them out, put in grow boxes and designed a place of serenity for clients.
“We put in shaded hammock areas, a waterfall and fire pit,” he said. “We are able to do things on a big scale.”
They have also put in playgrounds, namely the All-together Playground designed for children of all abilities, helped at Bridal of Hope and many more projects over the years.
“If we can do it, we’ll do it,” Jon Moss said.
Because they are strong, the Mosses said Everyday Strong, an mental health initiative run through the United Way, became important to them.
“Through raising all of our kids, we realized that you can actively be engaged in your family and in the community, and still need extra tools to feel ‘everyday strong,'” Janae Moss said.
Everyday Learners is another initiative through the United Way of Utah County.
“Everyday Learners taught me that our community can support one another in very important ways, including reading. I love the idea of people helping each other by simply picking up a book and reading together,” Janae Moss said.
The Mosses are grateful for the opportunity to help others, and the organizations are more than happy for the help.
“Janae and Jon Moss are a most amazing couple. They find ways to serve others in virtually every aspect of their lives. United Way and the entire community have been enriched by their many good works,” said Bill Hulterstrom, president and CEO of the United Way of Utah County.
The Mosses haven’t always been able to be this generous with time, money and arms full of love. They have their own story to tell.
Their story starts with plenty of hard work from a very young age. For Jon Moss, it started when he was 8 years old and started his own landscaping business.
He kept a spread sheet of all of his expenses and accounts; his mother helped him. Just like that, he was a young entrepreneur.
Janae met Jon when she was 17 in a math class at Utah Valley University. She remembers him as the cute boy in the back who mostly slept on his desk. She was studious.
“I couldn’t help but watch out of the corner of my eye as he passed me each morning to take his place. It only took a week or two until he woke up and approached me. ‘Hey, do you wanna go waterskiing?'” Janae Moss said. “And that was it. This handsome guy was asking me to join him on my most favorite activity in the world, and I was over the moon. I said, ‘Sure, what’s your name?’ and the rest is history.”
The couple dated for about two and a half years. During that time together, they built the landscaping company Jon had started so many years earlier.
“I shoveled dirt to get ready for the retaining walls he built for home show houses,” Janae Moss said. “I planted flowers and organized receipts. We played a lot.”
“Work hard, play hard, was definitely our motto, and we made memories we will never forget,” she added.
The bad days
The business was thriving, and they purchased a new tractor and other tools needed to expand the landscaping/retaining wall business.
They were married in March 1996 and by the fall of that year things began to crumble around them.
Jon was given the wrong medication in the right bottle from the pharmacy.
“After a month of insanity, I looked and saw Jon taking the last pill in his medicine bottle. ‘Jon,’ I asked, ‘is that the right medication?'” Janae Moss said.
He replied that it was what the doctor had prescribed and he had been taking it for a month. Janae said she immediately knew something was wrong, and asked Jon to call the pharmacy.
Sure enough, they ordered him to visit the pharmacy and bring them the drug, telling him he was in “great danger.” After inspecting the medicine, they figured out that he had been given the opposite medicine he was supposed to have received and in triple the dose.
“It was no wonder our lives had turned upside-down. The doctor ordered Jon to stay at home and wean down off of the intruder drug. Almost immediately, bill collectors showed up at our house,” Janae Moss said.
She said they owed $400,000 to the suppliers for their company — and they were a sole-proprietorship.
“On a typical day, there were two to four people on my front porch, just waiting for me to answer the door,” Janae Moss said. “They would call over and over, and bang on my door. I could hear them talking and see them through the blinds. I even remember several days they would sit and have a bagged lunch on my front lawn as I had a brand new baby.”
Jon was in bed recovering from his ordeal — and Janae was hiding in her own home.
“I was only 20 years old, and I had no idea how to deal with this kind of pressure. I remember crossing the Provo River in our backyard to get milk from the 7-Eleven because I couldn’t face the bill collectors,” she said.
Twenty-four years later, she says she still struggles to answer the front door or her phone, and her older kids are used to hiding when someone knocks.
“Eighteen months after Jon stopped taking the intruder drug, I had our second baby girl, and 10 days later, the state of Utah asked me to be kinship care for my niece,” Janae Moss said. “So if you’re attempting to count along, that is four girls in two years, and I was 22.”
They had lost all of their business, and were now in court to sue the original prescribing pharmacy — ultimately getting enough to pay Jon’s parents back after four years — were still in court for visitation with Sydney, in bankruptcy court — although they ended up paying their debts at a negotiated price — and in court to get her niece’s stepfather in prison for child abuse.
“We were barely surviving, and we needed help with food and support for the basic necessities to survive,” Janae Moss said. “Jon’s parents gave us free rent and let us eat from their food storage.”
The Mosses had no income, and they were living on the deer meat from friends and a lot of potatoes.
“Potatoes and ketchup, potatoes and ranch dressing, spaghetti with deer meat, tacos with deer meat — you get my point,” Janae Moss said. “Because I was young and clueless, I figured my parents wouldn’t want to worry about me, so I didn’t tell them the situation we were in.”
“Out of desperation, I looked in the yellow pages in the phone book — remember those? — and found a number for ‘Ask a Nurse.’ They directed me to the city to go through the very confusing and frustrating experience of trying to get assistance,” she said.
It was the first time they couple had asked for outside help.
“I was given food stamps and WIC checks to get the necessities such as milk, cheese and bread. This was a huge blessing, but I also learned quickly how these blessings came with a lot of backlash at the grocery store,” she said.
Still vividly remembering those hard times, Janae said she wasn’t sure if the people behind her in line meant for her to hear their comments or not, but it didn’t matter.
“I heard them. They said, ‘Holy crap, do we really have to wait behind her while they enter in all of those food stamps?’ They said, ‘What is she doing? Why is she taking so long?’ I was humiliated,” Janae Moss said.
“I knew that Jon and I had worked really hard to provide for ourselves and to build our business. We were not looking for a free handout,” she added. “Jon had worked the hours of a middle-aged man since he was a young boy. And now, all of a sudden, I was trying to defend our ‘poorness’ and prove to the government that the tractor, trucks and landscaping equipment, all wrecked and sitting in our backyard, was useless.”
“‘Can’t you sell it to get some money for food?’ asked the lady behind the desk in the big building,” Janae Moss said. “No, I explained, over and over again. We are in a lawsuit and we have to keep that stuff as proof of our experience.”
The answer came back that if that was the case they couldn’t help us.
“I silently vowed to help people in the community navigate the ‘system’ if I ever had the chance. I would help teach them how to find resilience and self-efficacy to get the necessities they needed to survive,” Janae Moss said.
The peach tree in her back yard became her most valuable, nutritious possession.
“My toes tingled as I bit into the juicy goodness. I ate as many big, round peaches as humanly possible because I was sick of old food storage and potatoes. I froze the peaches, put them in my food storage cereal and cut them up for my oblivious children.”
The good times
Jon and Janae eventually dug their way out of this situation, thankful for the many angels they say came along and supported them.
“Our friend, Ross, dragged Jon out of bed and talked him into helping build his gym, Paradise Health Club. It helped Jon to get moving again and gave him something to look forward to. The kids kept me going in a way that only a parent could understand. When I wanted to give up, I was distracted by my children needing to be fed, bathed, played with, and consoled,” Janae Moss said. “I began taking our niece, Shauntyl, to counseling once or twice a week to help her get through the unfathomable trauma she had experienced.”
“We worked our way through having to lay off our friends, and we visited a counselor to help us navigate the trauma we were experiencing. After the end of our first appointment, and hearing all we had gone through in the first few years of our marriage, the man said, ‘Um … I’m not sure what to say. Any one of those experiences cause divorce all of the time, and if you are still together after all of that, I think you are just fine. Here are some exercises you can do to work on your communication,'” she said.
“Jon and I worked hard after losing everything. It was awful. It tore at our souls. We had many sleepless nights. It made us want to stay in bed and give up,” she added. “It made us feel worthless and like failures. It affected the relationships in our family, we lost friends, and we barely held on to each other.”
They had to sell anything of value, and there were times when Janae didn’t know if she’d wake up to find Jon dead.
“I wish this were an exaggeration, but ‘they’ — the banks, our acquaintances, our debtors — took everything. Everything,” she said.
The Mosses are survivors, through and through. Their family grew and they went on to build a network of businesses that employ around 2,500 people in four states.
Having lived both sides of the coin, they now dedicate their lives to supporting other families.
With the prospect of an economic down turn, Janae tells people they might lose their job, home and food, but they can’t take away love, and they can’t take your family unless you let them.
“Jon and I are at risk of losing our business like everyone else right now, and we are doing everything we can to fight,” Janae Moss said. “We will give our blood, sweat and tears to keep our teams safe.”
Everyday, she says she repeats to herself and reminds Jon of a valuable lesson she keeps close to her heart.
“All they can take is everything, and it brings me peace, because the most important parts of our life are not things, and if we choose, nobody can take away what is most important. Our people are the most important.”