Educating Parents. Saving Families.
Fifteen years ago, my husband and I were in the thick of raising our five children ages 9, 11, 14, 17 and 19. Our 19-year-old son was in a terrible fight that could have resulted in felony charges and a prison sentence. At the same time, our 17-year-old daughter was in an unhealthy dating relationship and pulling away from our family. To say we felt inadequate as parents would be an understatement. I felt shame, guilt, confusion, and alone. We knew our family was at a crossroad and something had to change. That “something” was us. Mom and Dad had to change. We needed to raise our awareness, educate ourselves on some tough issues, have a few uncomfortable conversations, and disrupt some “life” patterns. I call it our “parent makeover” and it changed everything for the better! We grew in our parenting, we grew in our faith, and I started Operation Parent with the hope that no parent would ever feel alone or lack the resources they need to be the parent God made them to be.
Meet Our Team
Founder and President
As the mother of five children and grandmother of six, I have experienced life’s greatest blessing called “family.” Looking back, I can pinpoint a time when our family was either going to grow closer or break apart. Thankfully, I was surrounded by some great people who loved me, encouraged me, and provided me with some wonderful resources that educated me on parenting. I am so grateful for God’s provision and will spend the rest of my life paying it forward. Mother Teresa’s famous quote “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family” says it all. Let’s change the world together, one family at a time.
Director of Community Partnerships
I’m Jean’s oldest daughter and now a mom to 3 young kiddos; six, four & a newborn. I had no idea (back then) what I was putting my parents through but shew, talk about things coming “full-circle.” I realize now, as I’m raising my own children, that I am becoming more and more disconnected from the world they’re growing up in. My hope is to further my Mom’s mission to reach as many parents as possible with our life-saving information, all while staying informed and raising my own awareness. While raising our family is of utmost importance to me, I also enjoy cooking, being outside at the lake, and reading, which is becoming difficult to find time for these days!
Kelli Van Zant
I am a happily married (30 years this year) momma with four amazing kiddos, two of which are married, and have been blessed with our first grandchild! Raising our children was truly one of the most amazing gifts, but parenting also came with some of the most difficult challenges life can throw at you; knowing it was MY (OUR) God-given role and responsibility to raise our children to be kind, compassionate, responsible, trustworthy men and women of society. We were fortunate to attend some parenting classes when Operation Parent first started and became part of their community of parents learning and growing in knowledge of the ever-changing trends and lures our children were surrounded by. That was 16 years ago, and that’s when I became interested in volunteering where I could… and now I’ve been employed with the organization nearly eight years! I love working with other parents and helping equip them for this journey.
Program Development Specialist
I knew as a parent attending my first education program at Operation Parent, that something very important and special was happening here! I had recently lost a family member to addiction. At this time of loss, I looked around at my girls, nieces, and nephews who were all launching into their teen years and knew I wanted to do more to keep them and their friends healthy. Thankfully, Operation Parent was a place I could regain my hope and make a difference for other families. My husband and I absolutely love being parents, but we savor support on both the great and the tougher days of raising our teens! Operation Parent gives this support to our family, and hopefully you feel it to! This quote speaks to me more everyday… “While we try to teach our “teens” all about life… they teach us what LIFE is all about.” -Angela Schwindt
After spending 13 years volunteering and working in Student Ministry, I felt my passion for middle and high school students shift to helping their parents. I would sit with struggling parents and their kids, trying to encourage them to simply talk to each other. When I found Operation Parent and learned about their mission, I was so excited to come on board! I love being able to promote healthy conversations between parents and their kids, as well as educating parents on the world surrounding their children.
As a parent of 3 and a former foster parent, I’ve learned so many of the difficulties our youth face. I heard about OP after my kids graduated high school, but I sure would have loved to have had learned from their wisdom while my kids were growing up. My niece suffered from severe depression and no one knew what to do to help her, and a member of my family died of an accidental overdose at 19, so I know how drugs can worm their way into even the closest families. I now have 8 grandkids, 3 to nearly 15, and want to be able to help not only their parents, but all parents and grandparents who want to protect their children and grandchildren from life’s difficulties, and show them how life can be so much better and happier when they make better choices.
Growing up I was bullied at school. In high school, I began to struggle with unhealthy eating habits, anxiety & depression, suicidal thoughts, and was exposed to unhealthy situations and relationships. Things that I kept to myself because I didn’t know how or who to tell in confidence. At 21 years old, I made the decision to be serious about my faith and finally made the choice that I wanted to walk with my Lord and Savior daily, and that is when my world was rocked in the best ways possible. After a refining, hard, and freeing season in life, I began to have a passion to pursue mission work instead of the nursing degree I was working toward. Shortly after this new heart cry, I was introduced to Operation Parent. I felt connected to OP and the mission of this organization because I had experienced a lot of the topics they address. Being a part of an organization who helps parents be more up-to-date in what their children may be struggling with, experiencing, or being exposed to is an opportunity to be a voice for their children.
You never know how different chapters in your life will bring different people, different kids, and different environmental issues into your life. I have been living those different chapters, as a single mom of 2 then an empty nester, and the final chapter adopting 3 sons. My kids are 38, 36, 16, 13 and 12. A lot has changed since my 38- and 36-year-old kids were school age. I want to be the best mom possible this time around. My eyes had been closed to what was going on with my own group of friend’s kids; suicide, drugs and teen pregnancy, just to name a few. I am a retired nurse and love to “peel the onion” to get to the root of the problem. I became a permanent substitute teacher at our middle school just to see what our boys were faced with daily. My eyes were opened. I want to be proactive rather than reactive with my boys. OP has exactly what I need and I know other parents will also benefit. I saw the effects of parenting without a plan in our school system. I want to help change one child, one family, and one community at a time.