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The Leaven Staff

Mark Lillis Executive Director In 2009, Mark had an opportunity to move back to his hometown of Fairfield, and help founded The Leaven, which has become an award-winning program providing after-school and summer tutoring for children living in under-developed communities in California. The Leaven, under his leadership, has become the fastest growing grassroots nonprofit in Fairfield, California, and expanded its programming to Southern California. Lillis is responsible for the strategic leadership of The Leaven's after-school tutoring centers and "Summer Success Program," volunteer recruitment and donor development. Click here for more
Renee Tadlock Operations Director Renee was a site director herself, before becoming the lead of our Operational team, and is thrilled to be working with each site director, helping them find solutions to challenges and making sure their great ideas are being replicated across all Leaven centers. Formerly a preschool teacher for the City of Fairfield and a substitute para-educator for the Solano County Office of Education, she brings a huge passion for boys and girls and a heart for helping children to her work with The Leaven. Renee and her husband, Mike, serve as pastors for Real Life Church in Fairfield.
Steve Diekmann Leaven Foundation President and Financial Advisor Steve earned an MBA from the University of Chicago and worked in management consulting and financial markets in Institutional Fixed Income Sales. Steve protects our organization's fiscal integrity by ensuring that established processes, controls and safeguards are in place and assisting in growth planning and general strategy.
Michael Tadlock Church and Community Relations Director Mike Tadlock is The Leaven's Church and Community Director, working to build the church and community relationships that support all Leaven centers through valuable volunteers that are the crux of our program. In addition to his work with The Leaven, Mike serves as lead pastor at Real Life Church in Fairfield, and has built strong relationships in the communities where The Leaven operates. Mike grew up in Colorado and California, and attended Southern California College. He began his career as a youth pastor, and continues to work in partnership with his wife, Renee. The Tadlocks live in Fairfield with their two sons.
Mark Hagan Corporate Partnership Director, Regional Director, Benicia, Vallejo, Napa Mark grew up in Solano County, and has recently returned after raising his family elsewhere in California and in Arizona. His background in public relations and real estate, as well as business development makes him a natural in corporate relations. The Leaven was a program that he quickly embraced when he moved back to Solano County. “I’ve never seen a cooperative effort like The Leaven; everyone from community leaders and businesses to educators and churches pull together to impact our kids. If what you do with your money matters and you want to invest in the community, this is a great organization. It is truly changing the face of the community!”
Daniel Lindsey Regional Director, Fairfield, Suisun and Vacaville Daniel is a graduate of Vacaville Christian High School (VCHS), attended Sonoma State University where he played baseball, worked for Intervarsity Christian Fellowship and co-founded the campus chapter of Athletes in Action. Daniel said, “When I talk to people about The Leaven, they are awestruck by what it does and that we can change a child’s future in just a few hours a day, It’s not just a good organization – it’s an organization that does God’s work right here in our backyard”
Sandie Lawler Site Director The Groves Sandie grew up in a low-income household without a stable father figure in her life. She attended 14 schools in 12 years, ending up on Long Island, New York. There she met the man she would marry, and they have been serving the Lord together for nearly 40 years. Sandie’s goal is to stimulate the children to develop specific character qualities so they can grow up to be good citizens. She’s also passionate about reading: “I’ve found that children who have a harder time with reading often don’t have the joy of reading. I want to get them to enjoy reading for life!”
Juliana Zamora Site Director Phoenix Drive Juliana learned about The Leaven at church when she was teaching in Vacation Bible School. "I met some Leaven kids and they were so enthused about The Leaven that I explored the program," she recalls. "I saw the work The Leaven does and it was amazing!" Juliana's dream for our Leaven students is "to see their overall happiness improve as they do better in reading and in understanding their homework. I want to help change their attitudes about school and life.
Nathan Baisman Site Director Grande Circle Center Coming soon
Dina Johnson Site Director Signature at Fairfield Dina had a career in radio broadcasting that took her from Pittsburgh to Vacaville and other places in-between, but she has always had a heart for children because "Jesus loved the little children — and so do I!" she says. When she heard about The Leaven, "I had to check it out! It was an opportunity to work with children, which is my passion. I hope to see the Leaven students hunger for more knowledge — more math, more science, more English — more education so they are ready for the future. They don't have to do what others do, like gangs, drugs and crime. They can do anything through Christ."
Mason Tadlock Site Director The Village Center Mason graduated from Fairfield Christian School and is currently studying business at Solano Community College. He is thrilled to be able to both help the next generation improve their academics and learn about Christ-like character by seeing His love in action at The Leaven.
Natalie Rios Site Director Alamo Gardens Natalie is a homeschool mother of six children who has also worked as a math tutor, Natalie knows that “not every child gets the opportunity for intentional one-on-one time with an adult, but through The Leaven, we can change that as we help families feel a sense of belonging. We want them to know that they aren't just living in a community; they are an integral part of that community.”
Rod Kenny Site Director Marina Heights Rod’s life journey has "equipped me in a way that specialized in helping children," Growing up in Oakland and then Richmond, Rod joined a gang. Arrested for gang-related crimes when he was 16 was a turning point in his life, "I realized the world I was living in was not the world to be in," he reflects. Spending the summer in jail "gave me an awareness that I needed to change my life." He went on to graduate from high school, attend culinary arts school, work as a chef and marry with seven children, as you can imagine he handles our centers with tremendous ease.
Millie Simpson Site Director Marina Heights Millie raised in Brooklyn, and came to Vallejo 10 years ago with her husband, then in the Navy and now in the Army Reserves. "My heart was in my city,” Millie says. "I desire to keep a door open to mend the broken, honor the elder and laugh with children." "The children The Leaven serve are right in my backyard. I want to show them that if they put their minds to their schoolwork, they can do it!"
Teesha Jones Site Director Ontario (Southern California) Teesha has three boys ranging in age from teenagers to the early 20s, and knows the importance of reaching children before they get to the critical years in junior high school and high school. Sheis a lifelong resident of Southern California and is studying to be a nurse as well as serving in our operations.
Erin Mayfield Prior to joining The Leaven, Erin worked in the after-school program operated by the City of Fontana. When she heard about working as a Site Director in the City of Rialto, she said “I saw it as an opportunity to reach out to the children and help them academically and spiritually, I want them to be awesome students, but most importantly, to make a connection with God.”
Charrise Newkirk Site Director at Parkway Gardens Fairfield A graduate of University of California Davis with a degree in Chemistry, Charrise moved to Vacaville and completed a one-year internship in ministry at The Father’s House. During that time, she worked with Children’s Church, assisted with church conferences and participated in mission’s trips to The Dream Center in Los Angeles and Honduras. For the latter trip, she was part of a team that provided ministry programs for the children. Charrise was drawn to The Leaven because of her interest in working with at-risk boys and girls. “A lot of the kids at Parkway Gardens don’t live with their parents,” she says. “My passion is to show them that people care about them and that they matter. I want to help them get on track with their academics, and know that they can do the things they think they can’t do.” Charisse attends the Father’s House in Vacaville, Ca
Stephanie Yamato Site Director at Dana Drive Fairfield Stephanie Yamato moved from Ventura County to Solano County when she was a teenager. She has been very involved in the church community as an adult, serving in nursery, children’s church, youth and pastoral roles. Stephanie, who is a licensed childcare provider and has studied early childhood education, was drawn to The Leaven because it “combines everything I love – God, children and helping people. The Leaven mirrors my life!” Stephanie is the mother of two teenage daughters and attends Solid Rock Church of God in Vacaville.