We started Hope in a Suitcase because as parents, professionals and volunteers, we are each deeply involved with and committed to children. We believe children, as well as adults, benefit enormously when they are empowered to help others, through their own kindness and generosity. We have seen how simple gestures can lift a child's spirits during vulnerable times. We believe that every child deserves belongings to call their own, and reminders that someone cares.
Marsha Todd Austen - Co-Founder & Executive Director
Marsha Todd Austen has served as the Co-Director of Fundraising of the parents' association at Warner Avenue Elementary School, and has successfully helped organize elementary school community service events and programs. During her previous career in law, she worked as both an associate litigator (Manatt, Phelps and Phillips) and a transactional attorney (Warner Bros.). Prior to working at Manatt, she ran Business Affairs and Operations at Stillking Films, in Prague, where she helped manage business structuring and the legal aspects of opening offices in Warsaw and London. She earned her B.A. in English Literature (Phi Beta Kappa) at UCLA and her J.D. (Calfornia Law Review) at Boalt Hall, School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.
Andy Horn - Chief Financial Officer
Andy Horn is the chief financial officer of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, where he has been the primary financial executive since 2001. Prior to joining the Academy, he was an auditor for PricewaterhouseCoopers and an officer in the United States Navy. He was a six year board member of the Warner Avenue Elementary School's parent organization, serving five years as the Vice President-Finance and one year as the Co-President. Andy earned a BA in History from the University of Virginia and an MBA from the University of Southern California. He is a Certified Public Accountant.
Stacy Kravetz - Co-Founder & Treasurer
Stacy Kravetz is a successful writer and published author of several non-fiction and young adult books. She started her career as a staff reporter for The Wall Street Journal and has contributed to The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and other newspapers. Among other works, she is the author of bestseller Girl Boss: Running the Show Like the Big Chicks; Welcome to the Real World: You’ve Got an Education—Now Get a Life!; She's So Boss; and The Fosters: Keep Your Frenemies Close. She is extensively involved in volunteer work at her children's elementary and middle schools, where she has successfully chaired multiple fundraising and community service events. She earned her B.A. in Political Economies of Industrialized Societies at the University of California, Berkeley and her M.A. in Journalism at the University of Southern California.
Margaret Meenaghan - Secretary
Margaret Meenaghan spent 20 years in the business world before becoming an active member of non-profit organizations. Early in her career, she was a CPA at Arthur Andersen. Thereafter, she joined the Shorenstein Company, one of the largest landlords in downtown San Francisco. Most recently, Margaret was a Senior Vice President at Eastdil Secured, a real estate investment bank. After corporate life, Margaret became a supporter of public school education. She was a seven-year board member of Warner Avenue Elementary School’s parent association, serving three years as Co-President. She is twice a Cal Berkeley graduate, earning a B.A. in Economics and an M.B.A. from the Haas School of Business.
Nicole Field Brzeski - Co-Founder
Nicole Brzeski serves as co-founder and executive director of the Global First Ladies Alliance and Senior Advisor to RAND Corporation on the African First Ladies Fellowship Program. She was the Senior Technical Advisor to the African First Ladies Health Summit in 2009. She has previously worked for the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London. Prior to joining the London School, she was a researcher at the UCLA School of Public Health and conducted medical needs assessments for schools in Africa. Her previous career was in information technology and market research. She has a B.A. from Duke University in International Studies and a Masters Degree from the University of California, Los Angeles, in Public Health.
Melissa Burton has over 15 years of experience in PR. She worked as Vice President of Publicity at The CW television network, spearheading publicity campaigns for such shows as "Gossip Girl" and "Life Unexpected," a series about a girl who is reunited with her birth parents after spending the majority of her childhood in the foster care system. She served as the Co-Vice Chair of Friends of Wonderland, a parent-led fundraising organization at Wonderland Avenue Elementary. Melissa and her family are members of Adat Ari El synagogue and its social action and community service group, Abraham's Tent, and also lend support to community organizations including SOVA, PATH, Big Sunday and Jewish World Watch. She earned her B.A. in English at UCLA.
Eufe de la Torre - Co-Founder
Eufe de la Torre is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in private practice, working in Los Angeles. He worked at Children’s Bureau for 22 years, where he started as a foster care social worker, making his way up to Supervisor. While still working at Children’s Bureau, Eufe opened his own private practice in 2011. He is bilingual (Spanish/English) and conducts individual and couples therapy in both languages. His work has centered on helping individuals and couples dealing with personal difficulties surrounding their relationships, adoption, infertility, abuse and other mental health issues. Though Eufe left Children’s Bureau in 2015, to focus on his private practice, he continues to find ways of giving back to abused and neglected children. Eufe earned his B.A. in Psychology from Boston College and his M.A. in Marriage and Family therapy from the University of San Diego.
Alexandra Fuller has worked in Los Angeles Community organizations for 25 years. Among the organizations she has worked with: The March of Dimes, Beit T’Shuvah, PS Arts and Crossroads School. Additionally she has started multiple companies and most recently became involved in the urban farming organization, LA Urban Farms. She grew up in Sarasota, Florida and moved to LA in 1985 to receive her BA in Humanities from Pepperdine University.
Danelle Sherrod Geller - Co-Founder
After working as a production coordinator for film and television, Danelle Sherrod Geller began her career in the nonprofit sector as Director of Creative Development for Steven Spielberg's Starbright Foundation, dedicated to the development of projects that empower seriously ill children to combat the medical and emotional challenges they face on a daily basis. She ran focus groups with children across the nation and synthesized information from needs assessments into campaign and product development. She has a B.A. in psychology from Chico State University.
Rebecca George - Co-Founder
Rebecca George began her career in education through Teach for America (TFA), the national corps of recent college graduates who commit at least two years to teach in urban and rural public schools and to become leaders in the effort to expand educational opportunity. She taught elementary school in South Los Angeles for three years as a member of TFA. She is one of the Founders of City Charter Schools. In 2006, she founded her executive recruiting firm, The Firm for Good, and specializes in recruiting for non-profits and schools. She earned her B.A. in Sociology from Oberlin College and her teaching credentials from UCLA's Graduate School of Education and Information Studies.
Lauren Rosen Crosby, MD, FAAP - Co-Founder
Lauren Rosen Crosby is a nationally-recognized parenting expert and pediatrician. After graduating from Smith College and the UCLA School of Medicine, she trained at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center during which time she served as Chief Resident. She is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics, is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and is a Clinical Instructor for the UCLA School of Medicine. She is currently a full-time practicing pediatrician at La Peer Pediatrics in Beverly Hills, California.
Amber Hartgens volunteers as a Court Appointed Special Advocate at CASA LA, which offers a consistent of contact and support to and on behalf of foster youth to help implement and maintain adequate and necessary services. She additionally volunteers at A New Way of Life Reentry Project Legal Clinic and Neighborhood Defender Services, Inc. She is a graduate of Barnard College, Columbia University, and Boalt Hall, School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley.
Maggie Lin spent 10 years in foster care before she emancipated and went off to Dartmouth College. After receiving her BA in Philosophy, she worked for the UN in India and worked in the nonprofit world in Mongolia. She now leads Foster Nation and works to raise awareness of the foster care system among millennials and young leaders.