Meet the Van Aukens

Each month we want to take a moment and either meet some of the people who attend Grace, or, hear about some of the things going on within our church. 

For September, we’ll hear a little bit from the Van Auken family! The’ll tell us a little bit about their lives here in the city as well as a practical way that YOU can serve our city…


A little introduction to the Van Auken Family…

Adam and Marianne both moved to the city in 2008. Marianne was West Side and Adam was East Side but eHarmony and their love of Jesus brought them together in 2012. They got married in 2014. Boaz was born in 2016, and Benjamin in 2018!

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Work Life…

They both work in education - Adam is tech director at the Robert Louis Stevenson School, a private therapeutic college prep secondary school on W. 74th. Marianne is the Director of the Start to Finish Program at Harlem Link Charter School on 111th Street, between Lenox and Fifth.

NYC - The good and the bad…

They love Central Park, everything you need being within walking distance or deliverable, and getting to know people from everywhere.  The cost of living is so crazy - especially childcare and living space for young kids!

How has raising kids in NYC changed your life?

NYC is a different, often friendlier, world with kids. I was feeling like I was missing out on NYC life the other day, when I brought the boys to a local playground, where a live Dominican band happened to be playing. We ran into two family friends from daycare, our pediatrician, and made two new friends. On the way home, I ran into a colleague, and then played with friends on our hallway. Meanwhile, encouraging texts were coming in from moms from Grace too. Life is not always convenient and is nonstop in a different way than when we were single, but is still uniquely NY. Community in all shapes and sizes is precious!

And, give us your favorite kid friendly NYC activity…

Playgrounds, playgrounds, playgrounds and the Park! We're excited to try out the new Ferry system too!

Go to restaurant???

Del Frisco for steaks. Fresh & Co for healthy simple delivery on nights when cooking isn't happening!

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Everybody’s got one. What’s your crazy NY story?

Adam has randomly worked out with George Stephanopoulis and a powerlifting national champ. Marianne got to ride in a blue firetruck in the Village Halloween parade as a Roy Lichtenstein character (Thanks, Nicole!)

The ideal day off… 

Like, from kids too?? Sleeping, working out (Adam) catching up with friends in person (Marianne), people watching in the park, time with Jesus in a beautiful church building, actually accomplishing a household task

Connecting to Grace.

Marianne knew Dave Whitehead through her church family in Richmond, Virginia and has been a member since 2008.  Adam attended Redeemer but fell in love with the community of Grace when Marianne introduced him to it in 2013.

Coming to the immensity and anonymity of NYC, it is so important and refreshing to be known. It's been awesome to be part of a church family that learns about and values where we are in our journey with Christ and challenges us to grow and serve! There's no hiding out!

You mentioned Harlem Link earlier. Tell us how we can help…

Harlem Link is a Pre-K to 5th grade school and community that Marianne has been a part of for 9 years, located on 111th Street. Most families are African-American or are recent immigrants from West Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America. Ninety percent of families are low-income and many are English language learners. Harlem Link seeks to "link" academics, values, and community to graduate scholars and citizens. We believe the true measure of our success is if our kids become flourishing adults.  To that end, Marianne's role is to keep up with and support all of the school's young alumni, and work closely with 5th graders and families to navigate the extremely complex and complicated application and interview process for public (and some private) NYC middle schools. Our first two graduating classes are in college!

There are lots of ways you can get involved with this dynamic school community, one-time or regularly - we need you! Some possibilities:

- Read with a kindergarten buddy

- Participate/lead a Mommy/Daddy & Me session for 0-3 year olds and parents in community

- Mentor a 5th grader 7 times this fall

- Help with clerical and data tasks

- Event planning and set up

- Graphic design

- Give students or alumni a tour of your workplace

- Connect students or alumni with your college or organization at one of our events

- Help with college essays editing or financial aide planning as needed

- Financial donations always welcome!

- Have a passion or interest? Let Marianne know! mvanauken@harlemlink.org or volunteer@harlemlink.org

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