Founder and Executive Director
“Being a Voice for the Voiceless” Sarah’s journey to founding The Hope Box began long before her adopted son, Elijah, was dropped off by his biological mother with his suitcase, car seat and bicycle. Hailing from a super-sized family of twelve children and raised as the quintessential pastor’s kid and everything related to church ministry in Colorado, Sarah’s heart was indelibly pre-programmed to serve communities and families. At 16, she raised money to travel to Russia and worked at an orphanage for several months. After she and her husband, Joel, married in 2000, and became parents to four children, they were selected to join a family and marriage board through the Department of Family and Children’s Services (DFACS) where they taught parenting classes and counseled at-risk families. Here, they also served on the Child Advocacy Board for DFACS, creating collaborative communication processes across county lines . In 2012, they moved the family to Atlanta, answering the spiritual call to open their home to adopt more children. After weathering three failed adoptions, an unknown woman from church approached Sarah about the possibility of taking her grandson, Elijah. Sarah’s answer was a resounding “YES”. Due to many unfamiliar and unforeseen uphill battles, Sarah quickly familiarized herself with the legalities and inconsistent loopholes of adoption. The fear of decisions based on bureaucratic red tape which contradicted the best interests of the child fueled her into the role of advocate fighting for constitutional and state’s rights in defining “legal parent”. From this, the heart of “The Hope Box” mission began. Initially motivated to provide boxes of baby supplies in 2014, Sarah’s work uncovered harsh realities surrounding infant abandonment, broadening the scope of The Hope Box. She is a tireless advocate, public speaker and continues to assemble a dedicated staff in multiple states to bring not only awareness, but best policies and procedures surrounding abandonment, infant sex-trafficking and organ harvesting prevention, and community support for women and families in crisis. She sat on the Safe Haven National Board and served as Treasurer from 2017 to 2019. She currently serves as a EMCS of GA Family Advocate Liaison. One is as likely to find her at the State House, a local community event, a hospital and a client’s home at any given time. She led the charge in amending Georgia Safe Haven Law (GA House Bill 391) in a single day. Sarah is an author of “Called to Hope” where she chronicles the path upon which God has set her…and continues to lead her. Her ultimate goal is to catapult Safe Haven Law into the social conscience. She strives to make The Hope Box a national resource in its charge to rescue endangered infants and enable women experiencing trauma to make informed decisions that they can live with while ensuring that all rights are protected.
Director of Case Management
Emily Virkler’s profound commitment to mothers and babies in crisis, both medically and legally, began at an early age and has served her well in the role of Director of Case Management. As one of the high school leaders for TeenPact, she was instrumental in rolling out an intensive civics program in Massachusetts, Alabama and Mississippi. Her interest in government provided many experiences including being chosen to take classes in Washington DC at the Leadership Institute, successfully arguing a moot court competition in front of the Georgia Supreme Court, running the teen outreach branch for Christina Jeffries’ US Representative campaign in 1996, phone banking in the 1996 elections, and teaching Public Speaking, Debate and Civics at John Quincy Adams Academy, the first ever hybrid homeschool/schoolhouse. She sharpened her business acumen as an office administrator for Art Rock Granite. She increased the company’s gross earnings $250K to $2.5 million in two years. Emily’s passion for ensuring women and infant health is evidenced by her 15 years as a doula and postpartum doula. To date, she has assisted in over 100 births in the metro-Atlanta area, helping mothers and newborns adjust to their new routines of life. Emily also understands the day-to-day challenges of addiction as her family ran a halfway house for those struggling with substance abuse. Currently, as Director of Operations, she oversees all facets of the organization. She is extremely well-versed in state policy in regards to Safe Haven Law and yet still oversees the case management of individual clients. Additionally, she remains very active in the community as a prayer and worship leader. With her husband and three sons, Emily devotes every Christmas season at the Calvary Children’s Home organizing and bringing cheer and companionship to children of all ages.
Director of Training
Dana brings a wealth of education experience to the organization. Receiving her BS/ECE in Early Childhood Education from Albany State University, she started her decade-long career as a classroom teacher for the Dougherty County Board of Education. In 1998, she received her Reading Recovery Certification from Georgia State University and transitioned her role to Reading Specialist for the Lee County Board of Education until 2009 with primary students. After receiving her M.Ed. in School Counseling from ASU, she became a School Counselor for Lee County, working with elementary students until her retirement in 2018, having served 30 rewarding years in public school education. In 2014, when Dana’s daughter was a nursing student at Kennesaw State University, The Hope Box mission was integrated into the nursing curriculum. After hearing about the organization through her daughter, introductions were made. Dana and Sarah remained in contact until 2018 when Dana joined The Hope Box. Her experience working with at-risk children and families was a natural fit. As one of The Hope Box’s first employees, she served initially as Community Resource Coordinator in 2019. However, because of her ease in teaching and public speaking, she quickly transitioned into her current position as Director of Training where she dedicates her expertise to bring Safe Haven policies and procedures to all 159 counties in Georgia, and hopes to expand training nationally. She also serves as a member of its Executive Board. Dana has been married for 38 years, mother to three children, adoptive mother to one, and absolutely loves being grandmother to her precious and precocious granddaughter.
After receiving her Bachelor in Science degree in Human Services with a Concentration in Social Engagement and Advocacy at Kennesaw State University in December, 2020, Emily Gagne began her work with The Hope Box. She brings a myriad of experience through various support roles including reception and administrative duties. However, it is through her internships during college that align well with her current position as Director of Volunteers. Emily served as an intern for a Case Manager at Must Ministries and worked directly with children and parents in need of basic essentials throughout the metro-Atlanta area. She also familiarized herself with local community networks as she was charged with locating helpful resources and information. Her internship at the Academy for Inclusive Learning and Social Growth through KSU placed her assisting students with intellectual disability. She found these students campus internships which grew her passion to advocate for all different populations. Married in 2019 and youngest sister to The Hope Box founder, Sarah Koeppen, Emily and her husband enjoy rock climbing, dog parks, and most especially spending time with family and friends.
Marketing and Media
With a consistent eye for beauty and structure, Macayla Halbohn translates her well-honed skills to the role of Media Director at The Hope Box. Starting in her teen years as the receptionist in a salon, she diligently worked her way through the ranks to earn her master’s license in cosmetology, eventually ascending to the level of Master Stylist. During this time, she was equally devoted to fashion; keeping a pulse on social trends was second nature to her. After the birth of her first child, she decided to change directions and feed her entrepreneurial, creative spirit by starting her own clothing line with her cousin. They successfully built their online retail business where she heads up the baby and children’s line. They also sell women’s clothing and plan to expand to maternity wear. They entertain both national and international customers as well as host pop-up stores locally in Georgia. Introduced to Sarah Koeppen in 2019, Macayla was tapped for her expertise in social media, marketing and promotions, and creating content. With media classes under her belt, she is currently charged with assembling a Media Team for the expanding organization. She and her husband welcomed a second child in 2022 and dream of more vacations and travel.
Hospitality and Marketing
Lexi Koeppen is the newest member to The Hope Box team AND the Koeppen family. She hails from a small town in Iowa where her affinity for community, music and faith began. Leading Worship Nights, taking voice lessons, playing piano and guitar as well as acting in musical theater productions are just a few of her many talents. Once considering careers in nursing, music and elementary education, her passions and steadfast commitment to her faith led her to pursue a much higher calling. In 2020, Lexi joined Youth with a Mission (YWAM), a national missions organization, where she completed Discipleship and Secondary Leadership programs; she eventually joined their staff traveling to Bahrain, Colorado, and Montana. She also met her husband, Austin, during this time. Eventually, they both decided to leave for Atlanta to assist The Hope Box in the perfect intersection of goals. Devoted to women’s ministry, Lexi understands the need for community support, welcoming spaces, networking and job opportunities. However, she also possesses another self-admitted passion- coffee! Because The Hope Box plans to open both offices and coffee shops to serve mothers and families in crisis, Lexi has been appointed to head up this endeavor as the Director of Hospitality and hopefully replicate this model across locations. Her creativity is boundless as she also redesigned the new Hope Box website. When asked about her favorite things, Lexi proclaims exquisite coffee and deep theological conversations with her husband as the absolute best.
Director of Community Relations
Sarah Reynolds hit the ground running with The Hope Box in 2018. Inspired by faith, she approached founder, Sarah Koeppen, after church service to inquire about an internship. After fulfilling many different roles, particularly around youth outreach, she quickly rose to Youth and College Director. However, her true expertise is grounded in combatting sex trafficking with particular focus on infant trafficking. Working for many years alongside her mother through Rescuing Hope, an organization committed to sex traffic education and prevention, Sarah participated in its pilot program which has rolled out as an official statewide middle school curriculum addressing sex trafficking and pornography. She has been a dedicated researcher, advocate and expert ever since. Presently, she is the Director of Community Relations at The Hope Box and brings a wealth of invaluable insights and experience to the most vulnerable population. In her free time, Sarah is an artist and paints when she can. She and her husband, Matt, became new parents to their first child this summer.
The Hope Box is governed by board quarterly.