Weekly Update with Mark – How to Create a Leaven Center

The Leaven is growing! In just a few days we will be opening our 14th center on Dana Drive in Fairfield and our third new center this summer. It’s been a big task getting all these centers up and running, and we couldn’t have done it without wonderful friends of The Leaven.

13668909_10157146169940181_2110641385700465165_oSo how do we open new centers? It’s a long process that can sometimes take years to complete — but it all starts with a conversation.

Our friends and supporters tell their friends and coworkers about The Leaven, and the great things our program has done for their community. These conversations get people talking, and soon neighbors begin asking us to bring The Leaven to their community.

We then begin working with community leaders, church leaders and residents to secure the community backing we need to open the center. We often work directly with local law enforcement, government and schools to find the neighborhoods that would benefit most from our center’s presence, and then we begin speaking to the community managers who run these housing developments and apartment complexes. Their partnership is vital, not only in helping us secure a location, but also in gaining our first partner within the neighborhood.

We are also committed to receiving enough funding before we open to operate the center for two years. Most of this money is raised locally within the community that will be served, and is often a combination of donations, stipends from the apartment management, free or greatly reduced rent, and government and local business grants.  Once we secure the funding and have identified our location, we get to work, retrofitting the center to suit our needs, adding additional security to keep Leaven kids safe, and acquiring all the equipment and materials we’ll need to run our center. Sometimes it’s as simple as picking up a few tables and some school supplies, but other times we have to completely refurbish a space, replacing the drywall, painting the walls, replacing the flooring and more. Our volunteer laborers have been invaluable in that process

Finally, we aren’t just preparing the physical space, but our staff as well. Our site directors train for a month at another center, learning first-hand from our experienced directors how to handle the day-to-day operations of a center. We also spend time recruiting and training local volunteers for our centers so that by the time our doors open, we have lots of helpers ready to welcome our new students.

Once everything is complete, we open our doors. It’s a big job prepping a center, but when the community is behind us, this tough job is made a lot easier. And that’s how together we’re helping kids and communities rise.

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