13th Annual Sweet Beginnings Tea






Please join the North Lawndale Employment Network for an elegant afternoon tea at the Palmer House Hilton Hotel as we honor the partners and clients who help us to Create a Community that Works at our 13th Annual Sweet Beginnings Tea on Friday, February 16, 2017. For more information or to buy tickets, please click here.

Purchase tickets link 

Join the North Lawndale Employment Network, Sweet Beginnings Tea Chair Alaina M. Anderson, event emcee NBC 5 Special Contributor Art Norma and our awardees for a splendid afternoon of tea, beelove™ honey-infused drinks and delicacies, inspiring life stories, and an opportunity to meet our honorees and supporters.

We’ll celebrate Voice of the Voiceless Honoree Terry Mazany, former President and CEO, The Chicago Community Trust, Creating a Community that Works partner honoree Whitney Smith and JPMorgan Chase, and client honorees Curtis Butler and Nityananda Bell. This year we will present the inaugural Robert Steele Creating a Community that Works award in memory of the late Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele.

We look forward to sharing a cup of tea, compelling stories, and as a special treat, the 2016 TEDWomen documentary about Sweet Beginnings, LLC and Brenda Palms Barber!

Voice of the Voiceless Award

The Voice of the Voiceless Award honors those who provide a “voice” for the marginalized. Awardees come from all walks of life, including the worlds of politics, business, professional sports, academia, and others where their work paves the way for lasting change.

The 2018 Voice of the Voiceless Award is presented to Terry Mazany, former President and CEO of The Chicago Community Trust. In his 16 years at the Trust, it more than doubled in size and tripled its grantmaking capacity, significantly increasing its philanthropic footprint on the Chicago region. Under his leadership, the Trust vastly expanded its reach and deep commitment to supporting a diverse community of nonprofit organizations that champion equity and opportunity for all.

With his passion, commitment, and strategic vision for the men and women we serve, Terry has worked tirelessly to improve the lives of Chicago residents by being a local philanthropic force. Terry’s leadership has transformed lives and communities, as he has taken the time to personally explore, understand, and equip nonprofits like NLEN with capacity-building tools and grants to effectively address the root causes of poverty in Chicago’s most distressed neighborhoods. The Chicago Community Trust has been a longtime investor in NLEN. We are honored to celebrate Terry’s impactful leadership and the voices his work has lifted up.


 Creating a Community That Works Award

Partner Honoree

The Creating a Community that Works Award is presented to those who exemplify NLEN core values and beliefs and improve the quality of life for North Lawndale residents. These stakeholders, alumni, and supporters truly bring NLEN’s vision and mission to life.

In its more than 200 year history, JPMorgan Chase & Co. has invested in some of the most impoverished cities across the nation to resolve stubborn social and economic issues. Whitney Smith, Executive Director – Midwest, Global Philanthropy, has been a champion for advancing the quality of life for low income job-seekers throughout her professional career. In her role at JPMorgan Chase, she continues this commitment by investing in workforce programs that lead to middle-wage jobs, including NLEN’s Moving Forward diesel mechanic training program, and by helping to create career pathways for individuals like Nityananda Bell. JPMorgan Chase recently announced a $40 million investment over three years to create opportunity in Chicago’s most underserved neighborhoods on the South and West Sides. We applaud this effort, as this investment will create inclusive economic growth including jobs, skill development, and financial health for those most in need.

Client Honorees


Nityananda Bell

Nityananda Bell has been working as a mechanic for the Chicago Transit Authority ever since he graduated from NLEN’s Moving Forward program in 2015. He has been promoted several times and earns a family-supporting wage with full benefits and union protections.

The Inaugural Robert Steele Creating a Community That Works Award

Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele was a dedicated servant leader, a good friend to NLEN, and longtime resident of North Lawndale. Robert was instrumental in creating NLEN in 1999, alongside the Steans Family Foundation, Sinai Community Institute, and others. He supported efforts to establish a Sweet Beginnings apiary within the Cook County Forest Preserve and he faithfully joined us each Thanksgiving to distribute turkeys to hundreds of North Lawndale families. There is no better way to honor Robert’s legacy than by lifting up his attributes of service, amazing work ethic, and North Lawndale roots through recognition of a stellar program graduate who exemplifies all of these qualities.

Curtis Butler

Lifelong North Lawndale resident Curtis Butler is the inaugural Robert Steele Creating a Community that Words honoree. Curtis, a dedicated father, has been working for Damron Corporation for the last five years after NLEN helped to set him on a career pathway.