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.
Renee Tadlock Operations Director Renee Tadlock has a passion for community outreach that shines brightly as the Operations Director of The Leaven, purposefully leading and training a team of individuals working toward the common goal of instilling hope into the lives of our youth. She is dedicated to the mission of The Leaven to empower these communities by providing influential mentors who will invest in the academic, moral, and spiritual foundations of children and their families. Beginning as a volunteer with the Leaven herself nearly a decade ago, she gained the compassion and drive that compelled her transition to the Leaven Operations Director position. Renee Tadlock, serving beside her husband, Mike, as lead pastor for Real Life Church in Fairfield, is part of an entire family who shares her commitment to engage the whole community in coming together to resource underserved neighborhoods.
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 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!”
Mason Gizard Regional Director, Northbay Mason heads up our Leaven work in the Northbay area. Building on his own experiences of overcoming poverty, abuse and homelessness, Mason worked with at-risk youth and youth experiencing homelessness, and is the author of “Dad in a Day” and “Discover Life Beyond Crisis.” Mason attends Real Life Church in Sacramento and volunteers with RiseAbove, a ministry he founded to serve the homeless. Mason’s dream for students at The Leaven is that they will grow academically and have a real relationship with God.
Randy Metcalf Regional Director, Southern California Randy is grateful for the opportunity to give back. “About the time I was offered early retirement, I heard The Leaven was looking for a Regional Director,” Randy says. “I’m a big believer in God’s timing, and hearing about The Leaven in my church (Bridge Church of the Nazarene in Bloomington, CA) seemed like His next step for me. “It’s easy to complain about the way things are, but through The Leaven, we can do something positive. We have a chance to reach these young people before it’s too late, before they get involved in the wrong things. “There are certainly plenty of opportunities for The Leaven to expand in Southern California,” according to Randy. “We have a very skilled and experienced staff who are passionate about seeing the students succeed in school. If we don’t make a difference in their lives when they are young, it will be so much harder when they are older. ”Randy and his wife, Carla, a preschool teacher, have a daughter living in Ohio and a son in Southern California.
Mason Tadlock Regional Director, Fairfield, Suisun, and Vacaville Mason graduated from Fairfield Christian School and is currently studying at Liberty University. Mason has a well round scope of experiences with the Leaven that originally began as a volunteer, then he transitioned to a Site Director, and now serves as the Regional Director integrating his experiences and operational support to the sites and staff. 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.
Ahia Hartfield-Dyels Site Director, Burgess Point, Benicia Ahia Hartfield-Dyels is Director of Children’s Ministry for both Davis Chapel CME Church in Richmond and St. Peter CME Church in El Cerrito, an author, and a former substitute teacher in Louisana. Having graduated with a B.A. in Sociology from the University of San Francisco, Ahia is passionate about helping The Leaven’s students learn how to succeed in school and transform their futures. “My desire is that they will experience Jesus everyday through my speech and my actions."
Arthur Johnson Jr. Site Director, Waterstone, Vallejo Arthur has been working with children since he was 16, coaching basketball, tutoring and volunteering on local school campuses. When it comes to students needing assistance, “Age never mattered,” Arthur says. As an Associate Pastor at Bridgeway Church in addition to his role at The Leaven, Arthur continues to serve the community. “My dream for the students is that they will grow up to not be mediocre or rely on excuses. I want them to not be afraid to pursue being successful.
Chris Arthur Site Co-Director, Mariposa Neighborhood, Vacaville Chris Arthur, formerly a volunteer with The Leaven, is excited to take a leadership role at our site in the Mariposa neighborhood. “While volunteering, I enjoyed connecting with the students and building trust,” Chris says. “I was particularly encouraged by seeing their self-confidence and pride grow.” Chris, a bass player for the praise team at Crossroads Christian Church in Vacaville, is also a Special Olympics volunteer coach. His prayer is that our program has a lasting impact on students, their families and the community.
Daniel Wilson Site Director, Virginia Lane, Concord Daniel Wilson attends New Hope Church in Concord and is part of that community through volunteer work that includes building homes in underserved parts of Mexico. He has two Associate of Art degrees from Los Medanos College and is working toward a B.A. in Adolescent Development at Cal State East. Daniel’s dream for our Leaven children is that they have both immediate and long-term success as they learn the skills needed to achieve in their academic, social and spiritual lives.
Dennis O'Guinn Site Director, Grande Circle, Fairfield Dennis brings a security background and service as Officer Friendly while in the United States Marine Corps to The Leaven. His desire is to help our students develop academically and fulfill their God-given potential. Mr. Dennis is passionate about showing Christ’s love in action and to give hope for the future to our Leaven kids. Mr. Dennis attends Mount Calvary Baptist Church of Fairfield where he leads the prayer ministry.
Dina Johnson Site Director, Signature, 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." Dina is a member at Liberty Church.
Jacqueline Harris Site Director, Westridge at Hilltop, Richmond Jacqueline, a licensed minister in the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, is excited to be working with The Leaven, and desires to help our students be their very best in anything they do. She is a regular visitor and encouragement to those who are sick or homebound, and brings this same passion for sharing hope and encouragement to the Leaven center. Jacqueline attends Davis Chapel CME Church and is excited about helping Leaven students see how God can be part of their daily lives.
Jeremiah Tadlock Site Director, Phoenix Drive, Fairfield Jeremiah has been volunteering with The Leaven since he was in the sixth grade, and is now site director at our Fairfield center on Phoenix Drive. Jeremiah is a graduate of Fairfield Christian High School, attending Solano Community College and Real Life Church in Fairfield. “The Leaven is a good opportunity to impact the lives of kids who may not have positive influences in their lives,” Jeremiah says. “A lot of our students struggle in school and a few can barely read at all. My goal is to help them learn to read while they grow in character and in care for one another.”
Josue Cendejas Site Director, Woodland, Napa Josue brings to The Leaven a passion to launch our students into success. “My dream is for them to be equipped emotionally and intellectually for the challenges of an increasingly uncertain future,” he says. “I want them to leave The Leaven with a strong sense of being loved and having worth, and to understand that they have what it takes, not only in the classroom, but in all aspects of life. Josue attends Hillside Christian Church in Napa.
Julie Soto Site Director, Camden Parc, Suisun City Julie Soto, Site Director at Camden Park in Vacaville, was raised in Oakland but later moved to Vacaville with her children. Following a 30-year career in healthcare including 10 years with University of California San Francisco, Julie sought an opportunity to volunteer. "Jeremiah 25:11 says, 'I know the plans I have for you,'" Julie says, "and I knew God would give me a path." She learned about The Leaven at church (Real Life Church in Fairfield) and was encouraged to apply to join the Leaven team. "Kids are so eager to learn, and they need to be shown that they have value and that life is so much more than material things," Julie says. "I know God placed me at Camden Park to share the love of God with the students." Julie is a mother of five daughters and "just can't wait" to get to the Leaven center every day to help the children learn and grow.
Kayla Cordell Site Director, Parkway Gardens, Fairfield Kayla loves working with children as evidenced by her volunteer service for the AWANA program at Valley Church. In addition, she is Tech Director for student and traditional ministries at Valley Church and a high school ministries leader. She’s excited to be at The Leaven, helping children success in school. Teaching Leaven students to read has been a very rewarding experience for Kayla, and she’s looking forward to having that opportunity with many other Leaven kids.
Krista Edgens Site Director, Bella Apartments, Rialto Bella Krista Edgens, our Site Director at Bella Park in Rialto, attended school not far from where the center is located. After being in the foster care system, Krista was adopted at age four and later attended Bloomington Christian School, just south of Rialto. A good friend introduced her to The Leaven and she began as an intern in a Southern California center before taking over as Site Director at Bella Park. “I see in our Leaven kids some of the same emotional issues that I faced,” Krista notes. “I want them to see in me someone who understands, who will listen to them, and who can perhaps give them more attention than their parents who are working so hard simply to provide for their needs.” Krista completed her A.A. degree in Social and Behavioral Sciences from Valley College in San Bernardino. She attends Calvary Chapel in Rialto and excited to be modeling Christ’s love to her Leaven students. “The Bible says in Proverbs 21:31 that ‘The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but victory rests with the Lord.’ That reminds me that no matter how prepared I am, I won’t succeed without God.”
Leihanna Murphy Site Director, Dana Drive, Fairfield With five younger sisters, Leihanna knows the importance of setting an example and providing support as children grow. She’s excited to show our Leaven students that while life won’t always be easy, with diligence and hard work it’s possible to make it through challenges. “I want the children at The Leaven to realize that learning and growing through difficulties can make you stronger. I’m living proof of that!” Leihanna attends Real Life Church in Fairfield where she is active with the young adult group.
Janice Lowe Site Director, Waterstone, Vallejo Janice Ridgle-Lowe, known by our Leaven students as Ms. Janice, worked for four decades as a teacher or director for childcare programs in Contra Costa County after earning her degree in Early Childhood Education A long-time member of Davis Chapel Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Ms. Janice volunteers there in the children’s ministry and the music department. Ms. Janice desires to help the Leaven children learn Christian values as they develop good study habits and grow academically so they can achieve their goals.
Michelle Craig Site Director, Harbor Park, Vallejo Michelle has been working with nonprofits for the past 8 years, as well as volunteering in the youth program at Evangelist Temple Ministries, providing children with educational opportunities and reading programs. She brings this experience to The Leaven, as well as a dream that the students will “fall in love with learning.” She adds, “Whenever they believe that they can’t understand or can’t learn, I want to help them realize that they absolutely can!”
Naima Hester Site Director, Village Apartments, Suisun City Naima is a graduate of Fairfield Christian School and is currently attending Solano Community College with a long-term goal of entering the nursing profession. An experienced childcare worker. Naima’s desire in joining The Leaven is to see the students at the Village Apartments develop both their academic achievements and their character. Naima attends Real Life Church in Fairfield and volunteers on the worship team as a keyboardist and vocalist.
Natalie Rios Site Director, Alamo Gardens, Suisun City 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.
Portia Kenney Site Director, Marina Heights, Vallejo Portia has “Leaven roots” as her father was previously on our staff. “I have volunteered with The Leaven in the past, so when I came back to the area, my dad suggested I contact them to see if there was an opening.” Portia was thrilled to be invited to serve in the same center where her father had previously worked. “My goal is to help build the confidence level of the students,” Portia says. “A lot of them feel like they can’t achieve something; they can’t do it. As a result, they give up before they try. My message to them is, ‘You do have the tools and you are capable of doing well in school.’” Portia attends The Hill Vallejo. She’s excited to be part of The Leaven!
Rainy Smith Site Director, Summit Place, Ontario Rainy is passionate about showing God’s love to children through The Leaven as she helps them learn and mature. A graduate of Bloomington Christian Schools and former student at Grand Canyon University, Rainy has previously worked as a substitute teacher and teacher’s assistant. She finds joy in helping students succeed in school, and the big hugs she receives from her Leaven kids is a great reward for her patience and love! Rainy and her husband attend Calvary Chapel Red Barn in San Bernardino.
Sandie Lawler Site Director, Groves Apartments, Fairfield 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!”
Sandra Ector Site Director, Sereno Village, Vallejo Sandra Ector has more than five years of experience working at a community charter school and at Bridgeway Church in Vallejo where she coordinates volunteers who serve on the “Dream Team.” She is eager to use her passion for mobilizing the community to invest in others at our Leaven center. Sandra’s desire is for our students to receive the resources and assistance they need to reach their full potential in school and in life.
Zachary Doherty Site Co-Director, Mariposa Neighborhood, Vacaville Zachary Doherty is no stranger to community-based programs, having worked for the “We Love Our City” ministry at The Father's House and in after-school sports programs for the City of Vacaville. Zach, a father and a graduate of The School of Leadership at The Father’s House, attends Real Life Church and continues to serve the community. His passion for our Leaven students is that they will gain knowledge and improve in school while seeing the love of God in action.
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