Our mission is to nurture secure bonds for healthy families and bright futures.

A House In Austin House Heart Logo

A Community of Parenting Support

We're a group of parents, caregivers, professionals and neighbors that believe in empowering each other in the most challenging task given to us — raising our children. We desire to nurture and strengthen the bonds in families and be supported in all we do.

An inspired start

Founder Erica Hilgart never intended to start a nonprofit organization. New to Oak Park, she was struggling in her role as a mother to three children. Attending a Musikgarten class in Oak Park, she was struck with the stark dividing line of resources available for families between Oak Park and Austin. With her experience as a former CPS teacher on the west side of Chicago, she had the idea to create a similar parent-child music class in the Austin neighborhood.   In January 2016 that idea came to life. Boppin' Babies & Toddlers Music Class held its first class – made possible with the help of friends, family, and space provided by the By the Hand Club. Each week the class grew as families spread the word and invited friends to class.  In the second semester of 2016, the class had grown to 14 committed families with 16 babies and toddlers. Each step led to the next — including the purchase of the house on the corner of Pine & Race in Austin — to be the future parent-child center for music classes, parent support groups and parenting courses, and private counseling. A House in Austin became a formal nonprofit to begin fundraising for the future work in supporting families on the west side of Chicago.

Staff, Board, and Leadership

#Yourfamilyismyfamily

A House in Austin is currently interviewing for an open Executive Director position. While the Staff and Board steer the candidate search, they are also working together to keep all things A House in Austin moving forward. The staff is back in action at the house managing youth and adult programming, online keeping our social media presence alive and in community with myriad of involvements. The Board of Directors is working as a whole and in smaller groups to make sure that the ED duties are met and that the business side of things is up to date. We're so thankful to both our Staff and our Board for their time and effort toward the mission of A House In Austin.

ahouseinaustin@gmail.com

Lynette Kelly-Bell

Administrative officer

Lynette is a Chicago native, raised in East Garfield and is a current resident there with her husband of 9 years and their four children. Lynette began attending Boppin babies music class with her 2 oldest children after being invited by Becky. Although her 2 oldest children have aged out, Lynette's two youngest are currently in the program. She is passionate about her community and making a difference. She believes in breaking generational cycles and planting new seeds of change. In her spare time Lynette enjoys baking, traveling, and hosting in her home.

lynette.kellybell@ahouseinaustin.org
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Rebekah Martin, LCSW

Director of family services

Becky received her Master of Social Work from UIC in 2005. She worked for the YWCA Metropolitan Family Services as a trauma counselor from 2005-2013. She is trained in Trauma Focused CBT, Play Therapy, and is a Sexual Assault and Domestic Violence Service provider.

Becky joined Boppin' Babies & Toddlers Music class as a mama with her youngest child, and she brings care and comfort to our group with her warm smile and genuine conversations. She leads the Parent Chat Hour for parents and teaches Parent Workshop Courses.

becky.martin@ahouseinaustin.org
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Precious Jones

Program coordinator

Precious Jones is a mother to three and the owner of a state licensed home daycare, Precious Creations, in Austin. She has been the biggest supporter of AHIA and attended Musikgarten training at the Music Institute in Evanston with Erica. She was the first Boppin' parent to tour the Pine house and to see the vision and dream the possibilities with us. She has the gift of hospitality and possesses a kind, compassionate spirit. She believes in high quality early childhood education and in the power of gathering together.

ahouseinaustin@gmail.com
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Nya Martinez

operations coordinator

Nya was born and raised in Chicago and has been in childcare for about 6 year. She was homeschooled by her mother and is the 4th born in a family of nine children. Nya has a black belt in Taekwondo and in her spare time enjoys listening to audio books and trying out new recipes.

ahouseinaustin@gmail.com
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Board of Directors of A House In Austin, NFP

Vanessa Stokes, President

Vanessa Stokes is an Artist, Curator, Photographer and Owner of VS Creative Consulting LLC. VS Creative Consulting is an artist management firm where her main client is Dorrell Creightney, Vanessa’s Father. Dorrell Creightney had the first black owned commercial photography studio in Chicago and after his death left behind a 300,000 image collection. In addition, she is a cultural organizer and curator of several public art displays in the Austin community, including 2 displays of the work of Dorrell Creightney located inside the train stations at Austin and Central on CTA’s Green line train. Currently, Vanessa is managing Special Service Area 72 (AV72) in the Austin Community and collaborating with local artists and community members creating the future of art and public art on the Westside of Chicago.  She is the Co-president of the Austin Town Hall Park Advisory Council and the Chair of the Austin Town Hall Park Art & Culture Committee. Lastly, Vanessa volunteers on The Hatchery Community Advisory Committee, Advisory Circle at the Oak Park River Forest Community Foundation, Westside Cluster Lead for the One Earth Film Festival and Board Member of A House in Austin.

Bret Hilgart, Vice President

Co-Founder of AHIA
Head of Commercial Directors & Officers Liability, Bowhead Specialty Underwriters

Christine Goetz, Director

Community Volunteer

Jennifer Laird, Secretary

Senior Vice President, Neuberger Berman

Precious Jones, Director

Daycare Provider, Precious Creations, Teacher, Boppin' Music Class
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Merril Malone, Director

“Special Event Manager” Chicago Park District
Started Jan. 2021
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Pamela Valderrama, Director

Deputy General Counsel, LSC Communications
Started Jan. 2021

Kathryn Skoglund, Director

Started Jan. 2021--Bio coming soon!
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Patty Henek, Director

Community Volunteer

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Maureen Hunter, Director

Community Volunteer

We offer empowerment through:

  • Weekly parent support groups
  • Parent-child music classes
  • Home visiting program
  • Family counseling
  • Early intervention therapies
  • Wellness practices of yoga and meditation
  • Educational tools

Love like #yourfamilyismyfamily

Your donation can make a lasting positive impact on families.