Monica Catherine Zindler (1955- )

Growing up in a family of 12 children Monica learned independence and responsibility.  She received scholarships in music and attended Lawrence University in Appleton her freshman year.  Then she transferred to UW-Milwaukee, where she eventually graduated in June of 1978 with a Bachelor’s degree from the School of Letters and Science.

Monica got accepted to the Madison School Psychology Master’s program in 1979.  In December of 1982, Monica graduated from the University of WI-Madison with her Master’s Degree in Educational Psychology and was licensed as a School Psychologist.  After graduation, Monica moved to New York City, where she worked as a full-time volunteer living in a community of volunteers who served full time at Covenant House, a Crisis Center for runaway and homeless youth 21 years and younger.  This experience changed her life as she states “we were putting band-aides on wounds that needed surgery.”  After 18 months of service, she returned to WI to work on paying off educational loans.   Monica began her first job as a school psychologist at the Green Bay Correctional Institution, a maximum‐security prison for young adult male offenders (1984‐86).  From 1986 ‐1992, she worked in the Green Bay Public schools as a School Psychologist.

This experience burned an indelible imprint of compassion for those who have suffered   abuse of all forms.  Her heart began to dream of a place where a teenager could go where their wounds could heal.  A dream that would one day be realized.

In 1985, Monica developed a rare form of cancer, causing her to lose one of her eyes. Monica never let her handicap get the best of her. She was determined not to let anything interfere with her compassion to help abused youth.

In 1993, after six years of working as a school psychologist for Green Bay, she began full-time planning and fundraising to open a home for teen mothers and their babies. She lived in a friend’s house, rent free and survived with the support of family and friends and some part-time work opportunities. She took no money from the fundraising effort.  Her vision was to help these young mothers break the cycles of abuse, homelessness, and lack of education in their families and teach them the skills they need to become independent, contributing members of society. Monica formed a program at Marion House to offer these young mothers housing, support, and advocacy. She has put a significant amount of thought into the skills the program teaches and therefore covers all aspects of independent living-including: but not limited to-, employment, education, money management/budgeting, parenting, health and nutrition, daily living skills, emotional growth, spiritual healing, and so much more.

In January of 1994, Marion House group home for teen mothers and their babies opened its doors.  The most influential person in Monica’s life was her mother.  She remembered a moment with her mom. One day when her mom was upset, she asked her mother what was wrong.   Her mother stated that she had just gotten through talking to a woman who went on and on for over an hour about how her three children were a burden to her.  She looked Monica in the eyes and said, “Monica I want you to know that I have never considered you to be a burden to me, I have considered each one of my 12 children to be a blessing.”  It was in that recollection that Monica decided to name the group home after mother, Marion.  She wanted to pass along the wisdom of recognizing that no matter what life’s circumstances, children should be considered a blessing.

Marion House was built with cash donations and monthly pledges over three years ($220,000) and over $100,000 of in-kind labor and materials.  Donations by Brown County Home Builders and over 500 generous donors, big and small, made this happen. The churches dropped denominational differences and came together in love to support this project.  Largely from these churches came a volunteer program that included, daycare help, mentors, tutors for school, social activities and educational support.  Also Northeast Wisconsin Technical College taught a class in Early Childhood and Child development to these mothers.  At any given time, Marion House boasted of 75 active volunteers.

Monica wrestled with watching these young mothers struggle as they tried to make it on their own after leaving the foster care system, many of them barely eighteen. She had a vision to expand the Marion House program. Later, in 2009, Monica had raised enough money and support to open Marion House Transitional Living Apartments. This allowed another step before sending these young women out into the world on their own, before they were truly ready. Contained within this over 10,000 square foot building were seven two bedroom and one three-bedroom apartment, an educational resource center and a state licensed day care.

In June of 2014, Marion House Board of Directors Dissolved Marion House and its governing organization, Christian Group Home, Inc. transferring all of its assets to Freedom House. At the time Marion House had no debt and all of its financial assets, land and buildings were transferred to Freedom House Ministries.

Monica has also served on—or been part of—several other committees, such the Wisconsin Association Homeless and Runaway Services (WAHRS), the Brown County Homeless and Housing Coalition (BCHHC), and is an active member of her church.

In 2014, Monica received two awards, Governor’s Service Award for her work at Marion House and the Ren Svanoe Youth Leadership Award WI Association for Homeless and Runaway Youth

Monica Zindler currently works full-time as a school psychologist at Fond du Lac High School, a school of 2,000 students grades 9 – 12.  She lives in Campbellsport, WI.

In July of 2018, she adopted her former foster care child (now an adult) and her 3 year old son, becoming a mother and grandmother in the same day.