Graced with a natural flair for working with numbers, a Holtville bookkeeper/tax preparer loved the career she forged for herself yet, while volunteering, discovered her true passion was helping other women succeed.
Cibia Leonard, a 1988 graduate of Holtville High School, was on the board of Women of Virtue and Empowerment Network, a nonprofit run by local residents Betty Predmore and Staci Chandler for several years before it branched off into two separate civic organizations.
"I helped women just out of jail who needed a little guidance with life's journey," Leonard recalled. "They needed resources to get a job, work with anger management or parenting classes.
"But I also lead a group of Bible studies on Monday nights at the Imperial County women's jail," she explained. "It's me and another woman, Kelley Mendibles, from Christ Community Church. I'm at Turning Point Life Center with Pastor Norman Chandler. But I love helping women succeed ... especially women with life-controlling, addiction or anger issues."
Leonard explained she didn't want to be limited by her bookkeeping career but go with the ardor that drives her helping women.
"I think as women we all have issues we have to deal with. I want to help in a spiritual way with the Bible and help others maintain a relationship with Christ," said Leonard. "I'm also involved with a group, Deeper Still (in) Fallbrook. They lead an abortion recovery weekend and I attended for myself and was asked to be on their team."
Leonard further explained it was a life-changing event for her because she needed to go through extensive training, and then got her certification to use scripture-based guidance to appropriately counsel women who have had an abortion.
"Seventeen years ago I myself had an abortion that I thought I'd gotten over but realized I needed to heal and deal with it as so many women do,” she admitted. “But many women do not deal with it successfully. I didn't. There's a process you have to go through: acceptance, grieving and forgiveness so, I want to give back to other women."
For 13 years Leonard worked as a bookkeeper for Christ Community Church in El Centro, as well as a number of businesses in Holtville, processing payroll, accounts receivable/payable and setting up corporation or limited liability corporation status for nonprofits.
But when the church decided to downsize staff, Leonard felt the urge to start her own business, to be named CSC Solutions for herself and two daughters, Sabrina and Celeste, who help out with the bookkeeping.
"So I thought that was a fitting name, but the downsizing was the push I needed to go on my own." she said. "I started the business in 2018. I hope to grow it bigger to include my family and begin to hire soon."
Leonard admits going into business was intimidating but that she has built up a very good reputation in her church and community. As a result, she revealed she never has had to solicit business.
"I've been blessed to have people reach out to me," she said. "It's pretty much word-of-mouth. I'm doing accounting for nonprofits, farmers and church audits and setting up accounting systems during tax season."
The serendipitous part of her career was that she never started out to do accounting but began as a parts technician at an auto supply shop. When the store needed help with bookkeeping, Leonard was recruited and since she had an eye for accounting took over the task full time.
Having grown up in Holtville, Leonard sees the town as relatively the same as when she was a child. She said she does miss the diverse grocery stores, such as Pine Market, where customers got cooked ribs, Cooks Market with an array of fresh produce, or Union Market, a full-service supermarket. Nowadays it has to be an emergency for her to shop locally.
"I just talked with my friend, Esther Maston. She remembers you had everything here, movie theaters, a bowling alley. You really didn't need to leave Holtville. Everything was here. But I do like the quietness of our little town."
Development will not harm the city’s small-town feel, Leonard insisted, adding it needs more development, especially small businesses that support other business.
Leonard admitted she is worried about setting up a physical location for her business because people may hesitate to come to Holtville since it there is no longer the abundant choice of businesses there.
"My clients prefer me to come to them," she said. "I have clients I spend the whole day with and others only a few hours. But my goal is to stay in Holtville and provide service to those here who need it, which I do. I'm blessed having clientele here, and I'll see to it that they grow."