Alisa Didn’t Have a Chance

By the fourth grade, she could barely read at a first grade level. And her math skills were just as bad.

Her life at home was a dismal. Brothers who were known as troublemakers in the community, little income coming to the family, a missing father . . . and Alisa was left with a sense of helplessness.

At eight-years-old, she had already given up. She was sullen and defeated. Statistically, she was destined for a life of poverty or something worse.

In tears, Alisa’s mother came to us asking for help. Could we somehow help Alisa grow before it was too late?

We Knew We Had to Act Fast…

Immediately we placed Alisa at the first-grade table so she wouldn’t be overwhelmed. And we made her “Table Chief”, a position used to encourage and exemplify good attitudes, study habits and citizenship to younger friends.

Soon, Alisa began to blossom! Her natural leadership and organizational skills began to surface. Her enthusiasm began to grow as her studies improved.

Now, just six short months later, Alisa’s math and reading scores are at a high 3rd-grade level! Six months helped her gain three years.

Alisa’s  confidence  is  soaring!  She’s  received  her  first  award  ever  at  school and appears to be ready to soon excel beyond her grade level.

With the help of supporters like you and a host of volunteers, Alisa is no longer a statistic, she’s a child with a bright and unlimited future.

What  a  team  effort  that’s  impacted  a  child’s  transformation!

Training Day

One of The Leaven’s proudest partnerships is our close ties to the military men and women of Travis Air Force Base. Recently, Mark Lillis had the opportunity to attend a training exercise known as Mobility Guardian at the Air Force’s Joint Base Lewis-McChord, home of the I Corps and 62nd Airlift Wing.

During the training exercise, the Contingency Response Wing practiced rapidly setting up and securing airfields, conducting air evacuation exercises, making air drops, and mid-air refueling by a Travis KC-10. It was an amazing experience to watch these men and women prepare for the worse, working together and problem-solving on the fly with professionalism and strength.

The men and women of Travis Air Force Base are part of the Global Support Squadron, and it’s their job to make sure our fighting forces throughout the world have everything they need to complete their missions safely and effectively. But they don’t just focus out, they focus in as well.

Every year our military friends reach out and support our local community through The Leaven. They help our students send Valentines to the Troops to help teach them about giving back, they donate backpacks full of school supplies so our students are prepared for the classroom, and they make sure local Leaven kids have a Merry Christmas by delivering presents through their Angel Tree project. They help our programs when we need assistance moving, and they invite our students to see them in action, inspiring our students to reach for greatness and giving them strong role models to look up to.

All of us at The Leaven our so proud to have such amazing heroes working alongside our programs to make our communities a better place. We are so thankful for the dedication and sacrifice our military men and women show our country every day.

These hometown heroes are a true inspiration to all of us at The Leaven, and they are helping kids and communities rise!

A Safe Place

Each of our 16 Leaven centers provide year-round tutoring and mentoring to up to 30 students, but they offer another essential service that is part of why our programs are so successful at reducing crime: a safe place. In addition to providing a fun and productive environment for learning, each of our centers also provides 605 hours of care in a safe environment for the children we serve.

Photo by Darin Reyes

This means that every day, instead of going home to an empty house or wandering the neighborhood, Leaven kids come to our learning centers where they can relax and just be children, knowing they are safe from the crime and negative influences that may surround their neighborhoods.

So we keep our centers safe through a multi-pronged approach.

It starts with our staff and volunteers, who are all intensely screened and trained to make sure they can provide the safe guidance the children need to help them grow up healthy and happy. These checks include fingerprinting and background checks, even personality exams with our staff to make sure they are the right fit for the position.

We also work closely with community managers and owners to make sure that our centers put safety first. Each location is built or retrofitted with security as a focus, with daily inspections to make sure our centers meet our high safety standards every time our students come in the doors.

We meet with parents and neighbors, making sure to walk the neighborhood and get to know the people who live there. Making communities safer starts with the residents who live there and we know these families are just as eager as we are to make their neighborhood a better place to live. We help residents take ownership – and pride in their neighborhoods, which makes the community safer for everyone.

We are proud to be a community partner to communities like Alamo Gardens, where crime rates dropped by 54% in just six months. At Dana Drive, the Fairfield Police Department report that crime cases went from 64 in 2013 to just 29 in 2016! And 2017 is looking to be even better, with only 4 reported cases so far.

Creating a safe place for children to learn starts by making sure we do our best to provide a space where parents can feel good about sending their children every day; we focus on inspiring change, and we are proud every time we see our neighborhoods improve from within, one after another.

We are so grateful to see the peace within our walls extending to the community as a whole. We couldn’t do it without the prayer and support we receive from friends like you. Together we’re helping kids and communities rise, and that makes us a team that communities can count on!

A Night to Remember

This past year has been a remarkable time of change for The Leaven. We’ve opened new centers and embraced new opportunities that have helped even more kids and communities rise! It is such a blessing to come together with our community and make a difference in the lives of so many families.

Part of the growth we’ve accomplished over the past year came about as a result of our Annual Gala. This yearly event is our largest and allows us to bring together a community of Leaven supporters for a night of fun and inspiration. The money raised to support The Leaven at this event has allowed us to open new centers, as well as fund many of our currently operating centers.

With the start of summer, we’re already looking ahead to this important event and excitedly planning all the details that will make this a night to remember. There are some big changes in store!

This year’s Gala will have a new location and a new name. The Mayor’s Gala by Kaiser Permanente will take place on September 17 at The Meritage in Napa and is hosted by City of Fairfield Mayor Harry Price, City of Vacaville Mayor Len Augustine, City of Napa Mayor Jill Techel and retired City of Vallejo Mayor Osby Davis. This beautiful resort and spa, located in the heart of wine country will be an inspiring backdrop for this important and exciting event that is sure to be the social event of the season.

The night will be filled with good food, company and popular auction items for once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Sponsorship opportunities and table packages are now available, and are the best way to ensure that you and your friends can all attend this not-to-be-missed event. For more information contact us at

We hope you will join us for this year’s Gala, where HOPE is the guest of honor!


Teeing off for Success

Events are one of our favorite things at The Leaven because they allow us to bring the community together to share in the exciting work being done at our centers. The start of June brings our Annual Golf Tournament, amazing truly enjoyable time when the community comes together for a day of golf and to raise money to benefit Leaven kids throughout Solano County.

This year our Golf Classic raised over $60,000 so Leaven centers can help more kids and communities rise. These funds will go far towards providing the support our centers need to keep doing their important work.

This event would not have been possible without all of our generous sponsors, volunteers and donors who helped to make this event a huge success! We are especially thankful to our title sponsor, 7 Flags Car Wash, and our host Tim Roye, voice of the Golden State Warriors.

When the community comes together, we are able to make big changes in the lives of local families and help needy kids achieve success in school and in life. Our Leaven programs continue to prove that they work, and that wouldn’t be possible without the whole community’s support.

Thank you again to everyone who came out for our Annual Leaven Golf Classic. You made a huge difference in the lives of kids, all while having a great day on the links! We hope to see you back out on the green next year when we’ll tee off for even more success.

Summer Full of Success

Forget about June gloom; this is the brightest time of year for Leaven kids because Summer Success begins soon! Starting June 12th, students across California will be coming back to our Leaven centers for unique learning opportunities only available in summer.

Photo by Darin Reyes

Students’ minds are like sponges, and the longer they go without learning, reading, and keeping their minds engaged, the harder it is to get back in the swing of things when the new school year begins. Summer success ensures that Leaven kids’ minds stay active, ready to keep learning as soon as they get back to the classroom. Many students even improve their reading abilities during the summer thanks to Summer Success.

It’s also a chance for the students to go on field trips and explore the outdoors, traveling to nearby parks, city facilities, and even the beach. These new experiences allow their curiosity to thrive, and students often find new inspiration from the things they see and the people they meet.

Summer Success is a springboard to a brighter future for Leaven kids, and it all begins in just two weeks! If you’ve ever thought about visiting a Leaven center or volunteering your time, this is the best time of year to do it. Let our students inspire you, and join us for this summer of success.

Summer Success and all of our year-round programs wouldn’t be possible without the friends like you. Thank you for your support of The Leaven and look forward to more stories of success!

We Remember

As we remember those who gave their lives for our country this Memorial Day, we are thankful for the tremendous sacrifice our Military members and their families make for all of us each day. Their patriotism and dedication are truly a blessing to our nation.

For many years we at The Leaven have been blessed by our partnership with Travis Air Force Base, men and women who work together to support our troops and help families right here at home. We are so grateful for their support and service.

We are thankful for the example members of the military, police and fire departments and other public safety officials set for the children of The Leaven. Their lives of service show our students the importance of giving to their neighbors, and inspire them to work hard in school so that they may better serve others in the future.

To all military and public safety heroes, both past, present and future – thank you for your service. We honor you this Memorial Day for your bravery and dedication to the community. Thank you from all of us at The Leaven! God Bless America.

Better Together

Last fall we asked you, our supporters and members of The Leaven family, to join with us and vote for The Leaven as part of Chick-fil-A’s True Inspiration Awards. Thanks to your help we were selected as the S. Truett Cathy Honoree, earning a $100,000 grant to support and grow our programs.

Last week Mark accepted this national award as a guest of The Chick-fil-A Foundation in Atlanta. This money will be going towards opening new centers, and supporting our current centers.

This award is such a great reminder to all of us that we couldn’t do any of this without you. Our supporters just like you go above and beyond everyday to make our programs stronger. You volunteer and help our students learn. You come out and join us for events. You donate gifts so that Leaven kids and families have presents to open on Christmas. You tell your friends about our work and bring with you to our events.

You give your time, money and energy to supporting your needy neighbors.

Those efforts have paid off. We’ve seen crime rates drop in communities our Leaven centers call home time and time again. We’ve seen kids go from being held back, to being top of their class. We’ve seen communities come together to improve the lives of so many neighbors.

And it’s because of you. So give yourself a pat on the back, because you’ve earned it! Thank you for your support of The Leaven; together we are helping kids and communities rise.

A Gift for Moms

One of The Leaven’s strengths is our ability to serve more than just the children that come to each of our centers. Our programs benefit the whole family, and the community at large through a variety of community outreach programs made possible through our partners.

But few things bring as much joy as hearing back from our Leaven parents, telling us how much of a difference our programs have made in the lives of their children.

Fathers who tell us how much our programs have helped their children learn good habits to studying.

Mothers who tell us they’re growing closer as a family because their child is succeeding in school and homework time is no longer a battle.

With Mother’s Day this weekend, we are so happy to give all of our Leaven moms the gift of success, because there’s nothing better for a mom than when her child succeeds.

We couldn’t make this happen without the help of friends and supporters like you. Thank you for helping us provide this special Mother’s Day gift to so many local moms.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms, grandmothers, aunts, friends, teachers, administrators, classroom aides and other woman who make a big difference in the lives of children. Together we are helping kids and communities rise.

Multiplying Success

With schools throughout California facing tightening budgets and overcrowding, it’s important for teachers to have an ally outside of the classroom to help them make sure every child succeeds. At The Leaven, we work hard to be that trusted partner for all of our students’ teachers.

Photo by Darin Reyes

Over the past few months, the staff of our Village center in Suisun City noticed a troubling trend: our students were struggling with multiplication. For our 3rd – 5th graders, every homework assignment was a challenge, and the classroom time wasn’t enough to help them grasp the concepts.

It was time for us to do what we do best! Our Site Director came up with creative – and fun – ways to help reinforce the lessons being taught in the classroom; and through games, flash cards, time challenges, competitions and a lot of hard work, we started to see a change.

Students learned to memorize their multiplication tables, and having that basic knowledge helped them take their math skills to the next level.

And the students’ teachers noticed the change!

One student came back with A’s on 3 tests in a row, while another student’s teacher sent a note thanking us for our help and asked us to start working on division next!

All of this hard work goes beyond just test scores, because every memorized multiplication table helps build the students’ confidence so they are more willing and eager to try the next challenge, whether it be a difficult spelling word or long division.

We know at The Leaven that teamwork can lead to success, so we love working with teachers to help all of our students succeed. We couldn’t have so much impact without the support of local schools and friends like you. Together we are helping kids and communities rise!