Learn a little about LEAVEN's history in order to understand our present--and future

LEAVEN has pursued its mission of care and service since 1987, thus marking 31 years of providing basic needs assistance to vulnerable individuals and families in our community.   It was created by Father Robert Udulutsch, a Capuchin priest, who was ministering at St. Joseph Parish in Appleton in the late 1980s.  St. Joseph Food Program was operating from the church’s basement to meet the needs of people struggling with food insecurity.  As the head of the Social Concerns committee, Father discovered that many of these vulnerable households had other basic needs, like housing, utilities and transportation, that weren’t being met in the community.   People either didn’t know where to turn to help or were going from church-to-church to seek assistance – which wasn’t a very dignified or efficient way to address an emergency need.  Unfortunately, it also led to the duplication of services and the abuse of charity by some. 

Father knew there needed to be a better way, so he convened government officials, faith leaders, social service leaders and concerned citizens.  There was widespread support for the concept of a centralized system to screen and fund the emergency needs of people in crisis.  As a centralized agency, LEAVEN is a clearinghouse, ensuring the non-duplication of services and reducing the fraudulent use of charity.  LEAVEN is an acronym for Limited Emergency Assistance Valley Ecumenical Network.  

Since opening its doors on January 2, 1987, LEAVEN has addressed the financial requests of over 130,000 households, providing nearly $14 million in direct client assistance and countless referrals to help with basic necessities like housing, utilities, transportation, health insurance, food and diapers.

LEAVEN began with a tiny budget, a few volunteers, and a very part-time staff person.  Over the last 30+ years, the agency has expanded its physical space, budget, staff, and number of volunteers.  It has grown tremendously in its capacity for effective administration, raising money, growing endowments, and caring for the less fortunate in the Fox Valley Area. 

On July 23, 2018 Father Robert A. Udultusch passed away leaving a legacy of care, compassion and hope.   LEAVEN lost our esteemed founder, our community lost an influential leader, and the world lost an extraordinary humanitarian.

There would not be a LEAVEN without Father’s vision, commitment, and compassion.

He was a visionary, who planned for the future with imagination and wisdom.

He was a servant leader, who acted from a heart of charitable service to people in need.

He was described as a harmonizer, who brought people together towards a common goal.

He was a spiritual leader, who guided and inspired others to follow his example.

He was a pioneer of social innovation and a prophet of social justice.

He applied these many skills and talents to create LEAVEN.  He recognized a problem, envisioned a better community for all people, marshaled the support of multiple stakeholders, responded to the demands of the gospel to help the needy, and built the foundation from which to execute his plans.

In spite of all his amazing qualities and extraordinary accomplishments, Father was very humble.   He preferred to shine the spotlight on the volunteers, whom he held in high regard.