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Celebrating the Spirit of PEPS

The Spirit of PEPS Award was created in 2011 in acknowledgment of outgoing Board member and volunteer, Cliff Meyer, and has been given out annually to those who go above and beyond in giving back to the PEPS community.

PEPS is pleased to present the 2022 Spirit of PEPS Award to:

Max Zhvanetsky
Max Zhvanetsky
Max Zhvanetsky

Max was nominated for the Spirit of PEPS Award by one of his PEPS group participants who said, “Max is dedicated to creating a safe space where new parents can share and learn. He is the absolute best facilitator, and we look forward to PEPS every week. He has really made the group for our group, giving us the resources and ability to connect on our own.”

Max began leading his first PEPS Group this year, received excellent midpoint evaluations from his group members, and is already leading his second group. Max is a practicum student at Antioch University Seattle, where he is excelling in his studies to become a mental health counselor. When it came time to start working with clients, Max explained “I chose PEPS because of its supportive structure for leaders, its scientific and progressive basis, and the close relationship it has had with Antioch University students. I believe in the PEPS credo that early parenthood is a vulnerable time in people’s lives which brings isolation, disruption in most spheres of life, and huge shakeups in family dynamics—and that this makes the perfect time for connecting parents together for support.”

Max noted that prior to PEPS, he had never worked with parents before, and he is not a parent himself. He feels that he has learned a great deal from his group participants, and he has also chosen to share with them some of his personal identities and the passions which have brought him to this work. For example, Max said, “Due to my ancestral and personal experiences, I’m quite passionate about early childhood experiences and specifically breaking the cycles of trauma and emotional shutdown that so many of us pass along unknowingly.” Max has found that the parents he works with in PEPS are also passionate about this type of work, and he has enjoyed getting to support people during this vulnerable time, recognizing the many opportunities to make lasting and intergenerational change.

In addition to the Spirit of PEPS Award for Volunteers, PEPS is pleased to award Group Leaders with Recognition Awards in acknowledgment of their contribution, service, and commitment to PEPS. 

The 2022 Leader Recognition Awards go to: 

Judy Russell
Judy Russell
Judy Russell 

Judy joined as a PEPS Leader in September 2021 and has led 14 PEPS Groups (Newborn & Connecting the Expecting) in just 12 months, which is incredible. Judy has enthusiastically stepped up to lead multiple groups simultaneously in her first year as a PEPS volunteer.

A PEPS staff member commented “Judy is always willing to take on any group that is in urgent need and has also signed up to lead a Working Moms Pilot starting this October. She enthusiastically attends almost every Leader chat and training offered and is always an active participant.” Judy joined the Leader Support and Supervision meetings in 2022 and provided valuable guidance to new leaders attending those meetings. Judy is very invested in her support of PEPS and often provides new and updated resources for the portal, as well as feedback through surveys.

Before moving with her family to the PNW two years ago, Judy worked in health care for over 30 years, with the majority as an administrator at a large Midwest pediatric health system. For her doctorate, she focused her research on trust relationships between parents and nurses in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.

“Whether a new or seasoned parent, the favorite part of my job was supporting families and their children as they moved through their stays with us and back home. Volunteering with PEPS has been a great fit as I have had the opportunity to meet and support families before and during their parenthood journey as a facilitator of Connecting the Expecting and Newborn groups. I love watching the connections that are forged between the parents as a cohort, as they share the ups, downs, and in-betweens of this very special time.”

Judy is married, with two adult children, and a grandparent to her daughter and son-in-law’s toddler, who she adores. In her free time, she and her husband enjoy entertaining their grandson, gardening, and being with friends and family. 

Anna Van Pelt
Anna Van Pelt
Anna Van Pelt 

Anna was nominated by a PEPS participant saying, “Anna was incredibly knowledgeable and equally supportive. We were very impressed (and grateful!) for how open-minded she was in offering tools and resources and information but encouraging everyone to parent in their own way and with their own power. Anna also did a wonderful job of seeing and validating everyone's experiences and helping them to see and support one another.”

One of Anna's PEPS Group
Five couples with their babies gathered for a PEPS Group meeting with Anna.

Anna has led over 30 PEPS groups including Newborn, Second Time Around, and Baby Peppers since 2013 and has also volunteered as a Board Member with Seattle Families of Multiples, a PEPS Network Partner. She has actively participated in Leader chats, Advanced Facilitation Training, and Social and Racial Identity workshops since 2019. She also hosted and led an Advanced Facilitation Training this year on the topic of ‘Active and Culturally Responsive Listening’ which was well attended and loved by our Leaders. In addition, Anna has always stepped up to support PEPS Programs when needed by mentoring new Leaders and taking time to provide feedback regarding Leader training and support. She has also been a PEPS donor and has attended PEPS events such as the Luncheon and the Evening of Appreciation in recent years.

As a mother of three, Anna is passionate about supporting families. In her career as a lawyer, she represents a wide variety of clients, from families with young children to small business owners, from blended families to grandparents wanting to build a legacy for their grandchildren.

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