Our Mission and Values

Our Mission
We trust in the sacred interconnection of all and the creative and liberative power within these relationships. We ignite the power of our relationships in our shared stories and spiritual wisdoms by acting collectively with our neighbors for more equitable, diverse, thriving neighborhoods.

Recognizing our complicity in racist systems that oppress, harm and steal life, we commit to transforming ourselves and to taking actions that resist, disrupt, and heal these broken systems. All life depends on it.

Our Values
We nurture connection with humanity, cosmos and spirit; creating spaciousness for people to BE, LOVE & ACT Together through contemplative organizing practices interwoven in all aspects of our community life. We invite you to experience the transforming power of these practices as we co-create, with neighbors and allies, more just neighborhoods for all.

Our Team

Ali Ippolito

Leaven Community Space Use Facilitator
Salt & Light Musician & Organizer

LaVeta Gilmore Jones

Leaven Community Co-Director/Organizer

Julia Nielsen

LC Land & Housing Coalition Housing Resource Developer
Co-Pastor, Portsmouth Union Church

Melissa Reed

Leaven Community Co-Director/Organizer
Pastor, Salt & Light Lutheran Church

Leaven Community Board of Directors

Anneliese Davis
Board President

Anneliese Davis is the Vice-President/Co-Chair of the Leaven Community Board of Directors. She and her family migrated from Texas to Portland in 2013. They first came to Leaven Community curious about the vibrant neighborhood activities they saw taking place in the building. Inspired by the ways Leaven nurtures connection with one another and takes action for justice, they now participate in many aspects of the Leaven community.

Anneliese Davis has held leadership roles in nonprofits in Oregon and Texas, and currently serves as the first executive director of Rahab’s Sisters in southeast Portland. She brings her experience and skills as the Vice-President/Co-Chair of the Board. In her “spare time” she is an active Girl Scouts parent and loves knitting.

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Reuben Gilmore
Board Member

Reuben Gilmore is a native of Portland, OR. He graduated from Benson Polytechnic High School and received his B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Tuskegee University. He is currently employed as an asset management analysis for a water district in Washington County.

Reuben has deep connections with people in Leaven Community and wants to offer his time and skills through involvement on the Board. He brings an understanding of systems and structures and is looking forward to working with the Board and community members in the development and implementation of continuous improvement practices that will support Leaven’s mission be nimble and sustainable.

Reuben highly values his role as an engaged family-clan leader and elder; additionally he honors being a voice of reason and progressiveness in a time filled with extremist grandstanding. He and his former spouse have two adult children. He enjoys customizing cars, and gathering with friends and family for potlucks, celebrations, and especially lively games of dominoes.

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Thomas Montalvan
Board Member

Thomas Montalvan is a native of Nicaragua, and has Afro-Caribbean roots. He studied international relationships at American University in Nicaragua. He grew up actively participating in community projects funded by non-profits. He now resides in Portland and is currently employed at a local financial institution.

Thomas’s connection with Leaven Community came through meeting other members with immigrant roots and through participation in Leaven Community’s Spanish/English language group, Intercambio. Thomas brings a “world view” to the board and his vision is for Leaven to continue developing leaders in the immigrant community.

Thomas is an enthusiastic drummer and active basketball player and dancer, who loves Portland and has felt welcome to this beautiful city. Though it wasn’t always easy to adjust, coming from a different society, Leaven has been that place where he was able to meet people from many different walks of life and that has made him feel at home.

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Mayra Ramirez
Board Member

Mayra Ramirez was born in Celaya, Guanajuato, the City of the Cajeta (milk caramel)! She has a degree in Journalism and Communications from the Autonomous University of Queretaro. She was a volunteer translating for the Latinx community during her years living in Canada. She also lived in Spain and been in Portland since 2014 helping friends improve their bilingual language skills.

Mayra recently joined Leaven Community as an active member in Leaven’s Spanish/English language group, Intercambio. She learned about Leaven Community through Intercambio and recently joined Salt and Light Lutheran Church. Mayra brings her passion for her culture and indigenous background, friends and creating community to her work on the Board.

Mayra loves cats, cooking, hiking, photography and food from other countries. She is passionate about her culture and indigenous background, friends and creating community.


We invite you into this Leaven Community movement and membership in many ways, and specifically, over the coming year by, committing to:

  • Deepening relationship - engaging in relational conversations with three or more people.

  • Building community power - participating in Leaven Community circles activities three or more times.

  • Acting together with community in gratitude and joy; making one or more financial gifts of record to Leaven Community.

    If you want to covenant with others in living into this vision, click the button below and we will contact you for a conversation.


Leaven community
5431 NE 20th Ave
Portland, OR 97211
(503) 287-7533

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Eva De Cesaro
Board Vice-President

Eva DeCesaro is the President/Co-Chair of the Leaven Community Board of Directors. She is a native Oregonian and received her degree in Economics, International Political Economy from Fordham University. Eva is currently employed as an Electric Transportation Project Manager at PacifiCorp, a major utility company in the West. One of her key responsibilities is ensuring under-represented communities are heard and served.

Eva’s connections with Leaven Community began through relationships with women in Bras, Bibles and Brew and with the participants in Leaven Community’s Spanish/English language group, Intercambio. Eva is one of the leaders on the Leaven Community Diversity and Equity team. She spent two-years as a Jesuit volunteer and brings that experience to her work on the Board. As Board president she is looking forward to growing the impact of Leaven  Community. Eva loves salsa dancing with her spouse and friends.


Jack Mandeville
Board Secretary

Originally from South Carolina, Jack has worked in higher education settings all across the United States and Europe. He currently works with pastors, other staff and lay leadership at a local Lutheran Church as Ministry Operations and Communications Manager, and is responsible for the day to day office administrative tasks at the church. He brings that expertise to the Board in his role as the Secretary. Jack is also a certified spiritual director and loves to accompany others on all the life questions we often ask ourselves. Jack's interest in Leaven Community is connected to his passion for social justice and the desire to create community and space for others.

Jack recently married his husband Chris, and moved to SE Portland. They love hiking, traveling and home improvement projects. Jack is excited to be part of the Leaven family and encourages folks to set up a time to chat or to check out pictures of his 3 year bulldog and 17 year gentleman cat!


Joe Morgan
Board Treasurer

Joe was born and raised on the east coast and has subsequently lived in Texas, Wyoming, and, for the last 30 years, Oregon. Joe holds a B.S. in Engineering from Cornell University and an MBA from the University of Virginia’s Darden School. Most of Joe’s career has been in manufacturing and operations management, although he has a strong interest in finance and investments, as well. He has taught accounting, investments, and introductory business courses at Portland Community College. He brings this skill and expertise to the Board in his role as Treasurer.  

Among Joe’s best memories are his times as a volunteer at MD Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, and the Dougy Center, in Portland. A life-long Lutheran, Joe’s passion for the Leaven Community and its mission grows out of a desire for community and for relevance for the Lutheran church in this day in Portland. He and his wife, Debbie, love Portland, Leaven Community, their daughter, Kristen, and granddaughter, Taryn and recently retirement!