Executive Director and Founder
Matt founded Partners in Hope in 2011 while working as a pastor in the Lake Travis-area, after seeing the need for a ministry dedicated to reaching those suffering from social isolation. For Matt, ministry has always involved taking the church outside the walls to people in the community and beyond. He understands the power of connecting people to community and resources so that they will experience the love of Christ.
Matt served in a pastoral role for 20 years at five different churches. Before being called to ministry, he worked in the electrical, mechanical, and petroleum fields. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science, a master’s in public administration, and a master’s in Christian education. God has brought all of his work, ministry, and educational experience together in Partners in Hope. In 2020, Matt self-published Unexpected Connections, where he shares his journey, the history of Partners in Hope, and lessons he’s learned along the way.
Matt has been married to Cynthia since 1993, and they have two grown children they love. After living in a number of cities for work, Matt moved back to Austin (the town where he was born) in 2002. He loves spending time outdoors — admiring creation, hiking a trail, or building something.
“Trust in the Lord and do good; Dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord; And He will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord, Trust also in Him, and He will do it.” — Psalm 37: 3-6
Diahn (Dee) Ehlers
Assistant Director and Volunteer Coordinator
As assistant director, Dee oversees multiple aspects of Partners in Hope, working with the board and staff to grow the organization. Dee is often Partners in Hope’s first point of contact with the public, and she is responsible for managing volunteers while effectively communicating the organization’s mission and vision. Her own experience as a volunteer has created a passion to motivate, inspire, and encourage people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with members of their community in meaningful and impactful ways.
Dee started with Partners in Hope as a workday volunteer in 2012 and served as the board president before joining the staff in 2015. She is a native Austinite and graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a business degree. She was an active member of the Lake Travis High School PTA until her children graduated high school. She has lived in Hudson Bend since 1993 with her husband of more than 30 years.
“If you are alive, there’s a purpose for your life.” — Rick Warren
B.J. (Bruce) Rogers
Ministry Director – Cedar Park/Leander (CPL)
B.J. is our first ministry director for Cedar Park/Leander, a new service area for PIH. He is developing new partnerships with churches, schools, and other community organizations, while also recruiting volunteers and working with families who need PIH services.
B.J. comes to PIH with a strong background in ministry. Prior to his new role as a Ministry Director at Partners In Hope-Texas, B. J. served in multiple roles and countries for 16 years with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association (BGEA). Before the BGEA, B.J. served for twenty years as a pastor, most recently for nine years as Senior pastor of Asbury Church in Corpus Christi, Texas.
B.J. is married to Lynn and they will celebrate their 39th wedding anniversary in 2022. They are the parents to two adult children and have four beautiful grandchildren, with one more on the way! He enjoys beekeeping, camping and woodworking.
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.” — John 3:17
Community Outreach Manager – Lake Travis (LT)
Denise coordinates with local ministry and church partners to identify members of our community who are struggling with isolation and need support with living conditions. She supports Partners in Hope’s unique, year-long ministry model by staying in touch with our families over the course of our journey together.
Denise has known from the time of her childhood that the cause of social justice demands that each of us offer what we have to the Kingdom in order to serve those in need, and help give a voice to those who feel unheard.
Her professional background includes health-related services to the disabled, elderly, and economically disadvantaged individuals in hospital, outpatient, school, and home settings, working both stateside and in Central America. She has a degree from Louisiana State University but learned about service to others from her parents and church family. Denise is married with three biological children and has fostered several more. When she is not working, you’ll find her in the garden.
“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” — Matthew 5:14-16
Community Connections Manager – Cedar Park/Leander (CPL)
Carissa works to identify families affected by social isolation so they can be connected to community and local resources. She also recruits and trains volunteers for this new service area.
Carissa graduated from the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor (go cru!) with a bachelor’s degree in social work and soon after completed her master’s through Texas State University. She started her career with the Local Mental Health Authority in Williamson County, working with children and families navigating tough times. Through that work the Lord has grown her passion to serve the community in which she lives.
Carissa recently got married to Kevin Bickling, so her last name is no longer Araujo! When not working you can find her traveling, playing board games, spending time outside, or trying out a local coffee shop.
“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” — Ephesians 4:32 ESV”
Jill M. Johnson
Director of Operations
Jill oversees operational, communication, and development strategies with the goal of ensuring that our all of our constituents stay informed about the wonderful things happening at Partners in Hope. Her previous work in ministry gave her a heart for those who need to feel the Presence of Christ through the power of community.
Jill started her career in legislative advocacy, working on pediatric healthcare issues at the state Capitol. She has served as a director and consultant for several nonprofits, and particularly enjoys working with faith-based, healthcare, and education organizations. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s in communications (Hook ‘Em!). She and her husband have been married for 31 years and have two grown children. A lifelong Austinite, she loves traveling and exploring all the beauty Texas has to offer.
“Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, the world offers itself to your imagination, calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting — over and over announcing your place, in the family of things.” — Mary Oliver
Amy is originally from the Midwest and graduated from Purdue University with a degree in Financial Planning. She has worked in various accounting roles across a spectrum of industries including hospitality, banking, and public education.
She and her husband met in college and married in 1990 after graduation. In 2004, they were blessed with boy/girl twins who keep them very busy along with two schnauzer puppies!
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will direct your paths.” — Proverbs 3:5-6
Board of Directors
James E. Wilhelm, III (Jamie); President - Jamie is an executive vice president for the Austin-based student housing company American Campus Communities. He is responsible for leading the company’s efforts relating to the successful development of public-private partnerships with colleges and universities across the country. He and his wife (Kathy) have two adult children (JD and Jason) and live in Lakeway, Texas. Kathy is active with their church (The Lakeway Church) and is a group facilitator with Bible Study Fellowship (BSF). Jamie and Kathy moved to Texas from Columbus, Ohio. Jamie joined the PIH board in 2019 and has found that serving on this board is a great way to participate in an important local ministry. He loves how PIH focuses on building sustainable relationships between families suffering from hardship and social isolation with local church groups. These relationships benefit both parties and result in strengthening the Body of Christ.
Brian Oaks; Vice-President - Brian has been a patent attorney with Baker Botts since 1998. Brian grew up in Montgomery, Alabama and came to Texas in 1990, where he graduated from the University of Texas at Austin. After law school in Virginia and several years in Dallas, he and his family moved to Lakeway in 2009. They attend Lake Travis United Methodist Church, where Brian serves on the Missions Committee. Brian joined the board in 2016.
Laurie Hockenberry; Secretary - Laurie and her husband Mike moved to Lakeway in 2013 after retiring from State Farm Insurance. Laurie spent 35 years with the company in various management positions in Finance, Auditing and Compliance. They have one son, Brett, who is married to Ali and lives in South Florida. Both Laurie and Mike are active members of ACTS Church Lakeway. Laurie became familiar with PIH when Mike started working with the organization and several members of ACTS in making improvements to a client’s home. She is excited about the opportunity to be involved in an organization that can have such a positive impact on others.
Renee Philips; Immediate Past President - Renee has lived, served, and worked in the Lake Travis community since 2001. Renee and her husband Bryan have been married for over 30 years, and are both active in their church, Austin Christian Fellowship. Renee recently transitioned to full-time retirement from Independent Bank in Lakeway. She began serving with PIH as a volunteer on Saturday workdays. After retirement, she joined the PIH board in 2014 and considers herself blessed to be involved with a ministry that offers a unique opportunity to do kingdom work in this little slice of heaven on earth known as the Lake Travis community.
Bob Corless - After living and working in numerous domestic and international locations, Bob and his wife Joni decided to call Austin home in 2013. They have been married for 33 years and have one adult daughter who is studying to become a registered nurse. Bob retired from Chevron in 2016 after 39 years in facilities engineering. Bob is a member of ACTS Church Lakeway and is currently serving on staff as their facilities manager. He was introduced to Partners in Hope by helping with Christmas decorations and later led a small project repairing a client’s trailer. Bob initially saw PIH as a great organization that helps the less fortunate in the Lake Travis area, but has learned that it is much more. Partners in Hope also benefits members of the Body of Christ by building treasures in heaven that will not wear out, allowing them to get outside of the church walls to share resources and the love of Christ.
Thornton “TC” Cornell - TC is a Product Director for State Auto Insurance Company & is also a Certified Public Accountant. He and his wife of 27 years have six children and live in Steiner Ranch where Shelley teaches 5th Grade. They attend church at Austin Christian Fellowship’s Four Points location. They moved to Austin in 2015 after living in the Fort Worth area for 25 years. TC joined the board in 2017.
Tyler Lewis - Tyler and his family have called the Lake Travis area home since moving from Houston in 2012. He and his wife Rebekah of 13 years have two children, Sophia and Jacob who attend Austin Ridge Bible Church. Tyler is the Vice President of TAB Technologies and when not working enjoys spending time outdoors with his family. Tyler joined the board in 2020.
Keith Morton - Keith joined Partners in Hope as a board member in 2022. He lives with his wife Stephanie in Leander, Texas, where his three adult sons live as well. Keith and his family moved to Austin in 2002, after being born and raised in the Washington, DC area. They call Austin Christian Fellowship their church home. Keith serves on ACF’s Mission Leadership Team, and has been on several national and international mission trips to Managua, Nicaragua where he serves alongside the Nicaraguan Resource Network. It is through his serving in Nicaragua where he came to appreciate that missions is more about “being” than “doing.” Keith works for the National Credit Union Administration, where he serves as the Regional Director and President of the Asset Management Center.
Susan Priddy -Susan works as a freelance marketing strategist and writer. Originally from San Antonio, she is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin. Susan and her husband Chuck moved back to Austin from the Chicago area in 1993, and they have one adult daughter named Morgan. They attend church at Austin Christian Fellowship (Four Points). Susan joined the board in 2020 after participating in the development of Matt Peacock’s book about the continued growth of Partners in Hope. After learning about the many stories of lives transformed through the organization’s efforts, she was excited to contribute on a deeper level.
Rita Thompson - Rita joined Partners in Hope as a board member in 2022. She lives with her husband, Bill, in Cedar Park, Texas, and have lived in that area since 1990. They have three adult children who live in Cedar Park, Northlake, and San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua. They are members of Bethany United Methodist Church, where they have served in a multitude of areas, including teaching both youth and adults. Rita serves on Bethany’s lead team, chair of the trustees, prayer team, and inviting ministries teams along with other service roles. Rita recently retired from AT&T where she was an account manager for large government agencies. She is looking forward to continuing Kingdom work with Partners in Hope-Texas, as she loves the focus on building relationships between families in need and local church groups with emphasis on sustainability.