Tutor Ashley Lugo, left, reads a book to students at The Leaven's summer program at the Groves apartment complex in Fairfield Wednesday. (Robinson Kuntz/Daily Republic)


Annual Christmas catalog offers unique gift-giving

By From page A1 | November 26, 2012

FAIRFIELD — The gift-giving, gift-buying and – of course – gift-getting season, better known as the holiday season, has officially arrived, and if shoppers haven’t already completed their shopping, most are gearing up to go to the stores.

There are many deals and steals for consumers to buy for their loved ones, but what about the gift of giving back? One local organization has a creative way for shoppers to give back, and not to a questionable nonprofit or cause. This is a way to give back to the students and children living right in our backyard.

The Leaven, composed of five county-wide tutoring centers in low-income neighborhoods, comes out with its third annual Catalog for Children on Monday. The comprehensive catalog allows people buy things such as books and trips, except instead of buying it for themselves they can buy it for local children in need.

It’s somewhat similar to how organizations such as Heifer International work: Buy a goat, help a family grow a farm. Buy a book from The Leaven, help a neighborhood child read.

Executive Director Mark Lillis said the idea for the catalog came from organization’s sponsors as a practical way to give to the children in the community.

Keli Bilafer, irector of development, said The Leaven was really inspired by other nonprofits that encouraged “gift giving with a meaning.”

The idea for a children’s catalog was perfect, she said.

In August, the organization opened a tutoring center at the Village Apartments in Suisun City. The newest site joins four Fairfield locations at The Groves on East Tabor Avenue, sites on Phoenix Drive and Grande Circle and the PACE Center on Alaska Avenue.

The organization and its young beneficiaries depend on donations, grants and volunteer hours from community members and sponsors.

The catalog has been so succesful in the past two years, Bilafer said, it won a bronze medal in 2011 from Fundraising Success Magazine.

People can buy a plethora of items as cheap and simple as $5 for a book or $10 for sports equipment. Other items in the catalog include school supplies, outdoor activity packs, field trips, supplies for cooking class and after-school snacks.

One unique option for both people buying and the children is the gift of sponsorship. For about $25 a month, a sponsorship gives a child important tools for success, including tutoring, food and nutrition lessons, field trips and mentoring.

Isabel Gillespie has been a longtime supporter of The Leaven and currently sponsors several children through the organization. For Gillespie, it’s important to support the children in the community so they can find their path in life.

“Children are our future,” she said.

And that ability to help local children directly is part of the reason why The Leaven is proud to put out this catalog.

“It’s really something when you can touch a person right here in your own backyard,” Bilafer said.

To view the catalog or to buy a gift, visit www.myleaven.org/catalog.

Reach Heather Ah San at 427-6977 or [email protected] Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/HeatherMalia.

Heather Ah San

Heather Ah San

Heather Ah San covers Rio Vista, features and general news for the Daily Republic. She received her bachelors of art degree from the University of Oregon.

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