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. Matt understands the power of connecting people to community and resources so that they will experience the love of Christ. Along with board and staff, he is developing a Greater Impact emphasis for PIH that offers consulting, with the hope that other communities will develop similar ministries.
Matt served in a pastoral role for 20 years at five different churches. Before being called to ministry, Matt 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 — Nathan and Kennan. 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
Community Outreach Partner
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 Partner Families over the course of our journey together. She works with families to cooperatively establish goals and provide support from community resources and local churches to help families meet their goals. She 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.
Denise’s professional background includes health-related service to disabled, elderly, and economically disadvantaged individuals in hospital, outpatient, home, and stateside and Central American school settings. 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 a couple 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
Jill M. Johnson
Jill supports marketing and development strategies, with the goal of ensuring that volunteers, donors, and the Lake Travis community stay informed about the mission and service offerings of 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 local nonprofits, and particularly enjoys working with faith-based, health, and education organizations. She graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s in communications (Hook ‘Em!). She and her husband, Jimmy, have been married for 30 years and have two grown children, Jake and Josie. 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
Janean is a retired University of Texas employee who brings valuable accounting experience to her part-time bookkeeping position with Partners in Hope. She currently resides in Kingsland and loves spending time with her family.
“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.
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.
Melissa Sterns; Secretary - Melissa and CP Sterns moved to Lake Travis in 1988 (620 was a 2 lane road) They have been married for 32 years. They have 2 children Daniel and Michelle who graduated from Texas State and Texas A&M University respectively Both were Lake Travis lifers. Melissa has been a local pharmacist at Randalls since 1995 and in the Dripping Springs area since 2005. The Sterns family has always had a passion for the Lake Travis community and are excited to serve Partners in Hope.
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.
Amy Englemann – Amy and her husband Neil are local residents and business leaders with a firm commitment to the Lake Travis community. In addition to being full-time owners at O’Neill’s Pools & Hot Tubs in Lakeway, they proudly serve on multiple nonprofit boards. Amy is passionate about her role at PIH, joining the board in 2019. After first getting involved as a volunteer on a workday, it became clear that there was more going on at PIH. Relationships were being formed and deeper connection was happening, one interaction at a time. Loving your neighbors is alive and well in Lake Travis and she invites all to join what God is doing in this community!
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.
Brian Oaks - 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.
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.
Drew Rice - Drew moved to Texas from Ft, Wayne, IN. after needing a new start and outlook on life, Texas has been home for nearly 20 years. Drew graduated from ABA’s seminary extension program. With a passion for incarnational ministries and working with youth, he volunteered at Garner Bets juvenile center for many years. He married Sarah in 2008 and they have one daughter. The family has been in Lakeway for five years and enjoys being involved at Lakeway Church.