Staff

Mark Lillis Executive Director Mark Lillis has years of experience working to improve the lives of kids. First as the founder of a summer camp program for Las Positas Park in the City of Santa Barbara, and then as leader of the city’s youth programs.  His years as a founder and executive director of Leaven Kids rounds out an accomplished history of service to kids in need.
 
Having achieved a master’s degree in organizational and strategic leadership at Azusa Pacific University, Mark was inspired by his church to help find Leaven Kids in 2009. Leaven Kids has become an award-winning program providing after-school and summer tutoring for children in grades K-5 living in under-resourced communities in California.
 
In fact, Leaven Kids under Mark’s leadership has become the fastest growing grassroots nonprofit in Fairfield, California, and has expanded its programming to Southern California. Mark now sees that the undeniably strong results of Leaven Kids' educational and character-based programming is a model that can work almost anywhere. 
 
In addition to leading Leaven Kids' after-school tutoring centers, Summer Success program, volunteer recruitment, and development, Mark is enjoying the support of his exceptional board of directors, staff, and volunteers to continue growing the impact of Leaven Kids.
Renee Tadlock Assistant Executive Director Renee Tadlock has a passion for community outreach that shines brightly as the Operations Director of Leaven Kids, 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 Leaven Kids 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 Leaven Kids herself nearly a decade ago, she gained the compassion and drive that compelled her transition to Leaven Kids 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.
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. Leaven Kids was a program that he quickly embraced when he moved back to Solano County. “I’ve never seen a cooperative effort like Leaven Kids; 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!”
Vicki Dawson Church and Community Relations Director Vicki Dawson is adding a new kind of "wildlife" experience as our Church and Community Relations Director here at Leaven Kids to her years of "real" wildlife experience. She has her degree in Wildlife Management from Humboldt State University and years of experience as an educator and handler for Wildlife Associates. She is also the Founder and President of the Solano Community Animal Response Team. Her help with Leaven Kids' Horse and Pool party at the Groves shows her passion for animal care is matched by her passion for helping kids. She volunteered at Leaven Kids for over 9 years before accepting this new role in 2020. Vicki’s plan is to helpLeaven Kids students “discover their strengths and gifts and use them to glorify God in ALL they do.”
Tori Dent Regional Director, Northbay Tori Dent is the Regional Director of our Northbay location. Her degree in children and family studies with specialties in administration and adult mentorship enhances her role at Leaven Kids, just as it does in her work as a preschool teacher at a nearby Christian private school and director of the kid’s ministry at Bridgeway church. She loves to help people grow in their faith, and especially mentoring teachers to grow in their teaching skills. Her goal is to help students increase their social skills and academic abilities, as well as help them develop emotionally while having a safe environment in which to engage.
Sharon Edgens Regional Director SoCal/Site Director, Bella Apartments, Rialto Sharon Edgens is busy as our Southern California Regional Director and Site Director at Bella, Rialto. She brought years of experience in business and as an assistant director of volunteer service for Kaiser Hospital, but her highest priority now is being a spiritual role model for kids at Leaven Kids. Sharon’s degree in Social and Behavioral Science with an emphasis on children and psychology is a true gift as she focuses her time on helping students with schoolwork, encouraging them to persevere even when it gets difficult. “I have been so proud that several of the students who have been struggling with long division really seem to have grasped the concept. One even earned an A on a recent math test,” says Sharon. “It is very rewarding watching them learn and grow.”
Natalie Rios Regional Director, Fairfield, Suisun, and Vacaville 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 Leaven Kids, 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.
Chris Arthur Site Director, Mariposa Neighborhood, Vacaville Chris Arthur, formerly a volunteer with Leaven Kids, 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.
Angelina Borges Site Director, Stoddard West, Napa It takes a lot to get to Angel Borges. Though she went through two major surgeries that might have gotten most high schoolers down, Angel just got stronger. Now she is in college studying for a degree in Film and Television and working as the site director for Leaven Kids in Napa. Angel’s years as a live-in nanny and good relationships with her nephews inspired her to study child development and help children succeed. “My dream for them is that they can have a safe space that they love to go to, and they can feel valued and celebrated,” Angel says. “I hope they know they can accomplish anything they set their minds to.”
Deede Cain Site Director, Alamo Gardens, Vacaville Deede Cain is our site director in Vacaville. She comes to us with more than 15 years of as a public school teacher specializing in early intervention and English Language Development (ELD). During her time as a public school teacher, she realized that the best way to help a student grow academically was to connect with them as people. Mrs. Cain says that her proudest moments are seeing her students grow both in academics and in confidence. Her dream is that “God uses me to fill the holes in Leaven Kids students’ lives, enabling them to reach their potential.”
Kayla Cordell Site Director, E. Monte Vista, Vacaville 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 Leaven Kids, helping children success in school. Teaching Leaven Kids 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.
Mike DiTaranto Site Director, Grande Circle, Fairfield As site director for Leaven Kids' Grande Circle location in Fairfield, Mike DiTaranto brings hard-earned experience that shows his heart for helping children and families in need. Ever since graduating from Nazarene College in 1980, Mike has served the community as a pastor, counselor, and caseworker for those in crisis. His certificate in business management from City College San Francisco and his experience as coordinator of prison ministries for the Diocese of Boise Idaho have prepared him for leadership at Leaven Kids. He has worked for the Hanna Boys Center in in Sonoma to bring whole person-centered treatment to troubled boys ages 11-18 and as a chaplain to detained juveniles and their families at the San Francisco Juvenile Justice Center. To top it off, he has a Certificate of theological and graduate studies from St. Michael’s Seminary. His hope for his role at Leaven Kids? “I hope to bring students God’s love and redemption through ongoing academic programs, activities that build relationships, and opportunities to communicate the Gospel.”
Yvette Gamboa Site Director, Village Apartments, Suisun City Yvette Gamboa brings experience working in business and children’s services to her role as the site director for the Village Apartments in Suisun City. In addition to her work as an project underwriter with Bank of America and sales manager for Discovery Builders, Yvette has been an active volunteer at her own Liberty Church and works with youth sports programs, participating in drives for food and school supplies, and covering neighborhoods in prayer with prayer walks. Her passion as site director of Leaven Kids is to help students “acknowledge their potential to do great at anything the put their minds to.”
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!”
Ramona Mah Site Director, Phoenix Drive, Fairfield Our Site Director for Phoenix Drive is Ramona Mah. Ramona showed her passion for serving others when she received her Bachelor’s degree in Social Work and Christian Theology and added to that by serving the children’s ministry in her church. Her greatest hope is to show students at Leaven Kids the love of the God through prayer. “God has plans for them. Their lives are written in the Bible and they have a purpose and a calling.” She also hopes to bring out their potential by teaching them how to utilize tools and their skills to overcome challenging subjects.
Andrea Perez Site Director, Carolina Heights, Vallejo Andrea Perez is the acting site director for Leaven Kids at Sereno Village in Vallejo. Andrea’s goal is to help students graduate high school and become important contributors to their community. Her experience working as a nursing attendant and volunteering at the Food Bank and Nursery Ministry at First Church of the Nazarene in Vallejo has fueled her dream to work with and help kids.
Rainy Smith Site Director, Summit Place, Ontario Rainy is passionate about showing God’s love to children through Leaven Kids 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.
Leihanna Murphy Site Director, Dana Drive, Fairfield Leihanna (Hanna) Murphy is the site director for Leaven Kids’ Dana Drive site. Her experience taking care of her five younger sisters as they grew up, and serving seniors at the Paradise Valley Estates retirement community, has prepared her for the various aspects of being a Leaven Kids site director. One of the favorite lessons she has for kids is learning how to communicate in positive ways to express how they are feeling or too set a boundary that may be needed with others. Her dream for the kids at Leaven Kids is to grow up knowing that it won’t always be easy, but to understand that with diligence and hard work, you can make it through challenges. Leihanna knows that it’s important to look on the bright side of everything. That learning and growing through the difficulties just makes you stronger and that is the example she desires to be to the Leaven kids.
Desiree Woods Site Director, The Village, Suisun Desiree Woods is the director of the Leaven Kids Village site in Suisun. She doesn’t mind when the kids call her Ms. Ree Ree. She has an Associative Arts degree in Liberal Arts and Social Sciences and is planning to complete her Bachelor of Arts at UC Davis. Her experience as a youth director at Word of Life Ministries for 10 years prepared her well for serving kids at Leaven Kids. Her background as a volunteer for multiple church service projects and professional experience in the medical administration field has prepared her for the many facets of managing a Leaven Kids site. “I feel proud for myself, children, and their parents when we work on a project together through the ups, downs and hiccups,” Desiree says. “My dream for the children at Leaven Kids is for them to be excited to learn, excel, and be successful in school, as well as their personal lives.” She also hopes to help grow their faith through her example.
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