About NLEN

The North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) assists North Lawndale residents through innovative employment initiatives that lead to economic advancement and an improved quality of life. NLEN was founded in 1999 through an 18-month community planning effort led by the Steans Family Foundation to serve the unmet employment needs of the North Lawndale community. In 2004, we launched Sweet Beginnings, a social enterprise and wholly owned subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network.

NLEN continually updates its services to meet the employment needs of clients and the community at large. NLEN’s approach to addressing the extremely high rates of unemployment and underemployment in North Lawndale is to offer employment services and transitional jobs to North Lawndale residents, many of whom are citizens returning from incarceration and others with significant barriers to employment.

NLEN is committed to:

  • Assisting those with barriers to employment, especially former offenders, in securing jobs with family-supporting wages
  • Partnering with employers in recruiting and retaining workers
  • Advocating on behalf of low-income job-seekers
  • Empowering job seekers with access to financial tools and literacy
  • Creating a thriving and sustainable community

We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to work. More importantly, we also believe that our community flourishes when good jobs give residents both paychecks and self-worth. Our clients are motivated, trained, equipped, and ready to work—qualities that employers value. We should know: more than 20% of our full-time staff are program graduates. We offer donors the chance to invest in an organization with a stellar track record of changing individual lives and improving the community’s quality of life, one person at a time, one job at a time.

North Lawndale Employment Network Mission

The North Lawndale Employment Network’s mission is to improve the earnings potential of North Lawndale residents through innovative employment initiatives that lead to economic advancement and an improved quality of life.

Sweet Beginnings Triple Bottom Line Mission

Social:  To provide people facing significant barriers to employment – primarily those with histories of criminal convictions – with viable opportunities to establish a work history, learn productive work habits, and become productive members of society.

Economic: To contribute to the economic revitalization of the North Lawndale neighborhood through a social enterprise that is sustainable for the long-term and generates jobs.

Product: To produce and sell high-quality honey and honey-based personal care and relaxation products.

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Sweet Beginnings