Staff

Brenda Palms Barber : Executive Director, North Lawndale Employment Network  &  Chief Executive Officer, Sweet Beginnings, LLC

Brenda Palms Barber

Executive Director, North Lawndale Employment Network & Chief Executive Officer, Sweet Beginnings, LLC

Brenda Palms Barber, Chief Executive Officer of the North Lawndale Employment Network, an urban workforce development agency, and founding social entrepreneur and CEO of Sweet Beginnings, LLC, a social enterprise using urban beekeeping to create jobs for those with significant barriers to employment, has served as President and CEO of NLEN since its founding in 1999. She launched NLEN’s wholly owned subsidiary social enterprise, Sweet Beginnings, in 2004 to ensure its hardest to employ clients could get jobs and gain a history of employment. Under Brenda’s leadership, NLEN has grown from two to 48 employees and generates an annual budget in excess of $5.2 million. Today, NLEN serves more than 2,500 people per year. Sweet Beginnings has expanded from a cottage industry to distribution at more than 43 Mariano stores, both O’Hare and Midway airports, and has been awarded one of the first Benefit Chicago loans for social impact businesses.

NLEN has received numerous awards including one of the first MacArthur Foundation Awards for Creative and Effective Institutions (2006) and the prestigious Bank of America Neighborhood Builders Award (2015) and the 2018 Citi Foundation Community Progress Makers and recently the 2019 Google Impact Challenge award. Brenda has raised the national profile of NLEN, Sweet Beginnings, and the plight of people with barriers to employment through extensive media coverage including CNN, the NBC Today Show, CBS Evening News with Scott Pelley, a TEDWomen Documentary, and Lifetime. Brenda has published in the Wall Street Journal and appeared on ABC7 Windy City Live as a 4-Star Chicagoan. In recognition of her innovation and commitment to helping those in need, Congressman Danny Davis awarded Brenda the Cardiss Collins Trailblazer Award (2013).

Brenda is a graduate of Harvard’s Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management program and the Chicago Urban League’s nextOne entrepreneurship program, which included classes at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She holds a Master of Science in Nonprofit Management from the Spertus Institute in Chicago.

 


 

Mark L. Sanders, II : Chief Program Officer & Director of Institutional Effectiveness

Mark L. Sanders, II

Chief Program Officer & Director of Institutional Effectiveness

 


 

Robert Miller : Chief Operations Officer, Sweet Beginnings

Robert Miller

Chief Operations Officer, Sweet Beginnings

 


Alex Garcia : Director of Finance & Administration

Alex Garcia

Director of Finance & Administration

 


 

Lauren Wesley : Director of Development

Lauren Wesley

Director of Development

 


Pauline Sylvain : Financial Opportunity Center Program Director

Pauline Sylvain

Financial Opportunity Center Program Director

 


 

Adam Levine : Director of Evaluation & Innovation

Adam Levine

Director of Evaluation & Innovation

 


 

LeOné Champion : Human Resources Generalist and Administrative Coordinator

LeOné Champion

Human Resources Generalist and Administrative Coordinator

 


 

Jose Wilson : Director of Workforce Programs & Clinical Services

Jose Wilson

Director of Workforce Programs & Clinical Services

 


 

Derrick Sanders : Clinical Workforce Development Coach and Trainer

Derrick Sanders

Clinical Workforce Development Coach and Trainer


 

Ramonda Roberts : Finance Supervisor

Ramonda Roberts

Finance Supervisor

 


 

Michelle Parker : Senior Financial Coach

Michelle Parker

Senior Financial Coach

 


 

Gustavo Martinez : Visual Communications Manager

Gustavo Martinez

Visual Communications Manager

 


Taneka Pernell : Financial Capability Coach

Taneka Pernell

Financial Capability Coach

 


 

Nicole Parham-Munoz : Workforce Development Coach

Nicole Parham-Munoz

Workforce Development Coach

 


 

Elaine Austin : Workforce Development Coach

Elaine Austin

Workforce Development Coach

 


 

Kristi Relaz : Business Solutions Manager

Kristi Relaz

Business Solutions Manager

 


Fritzlene Emile : Workforce Development Coach & Trainer

Fritzlene Emile

Workforce Development Coach & Trainer

 


Ana Encarnacion : Community Resource Assistant

Ana Encarnacion

Community Resource Assistant



 

Fred Schroeder : Office Manager

Fred Schroeder

Office Manager

 


Joseph Smith : Maintenance Technician

Joseph Smith

Maintenance Technician

 


 

Terri Mariano : READI Senior Coach

Terri Mariano

READI Senior Coach

Bernida Davenport : READI Crew Manager

Bernida Davenport

READI Crew Manager

Sadie Joseph : READI Coach

Sadie Joseph

READI Coach

Cristian Petre : Head Beekeeper, Sweet Beginnings

Cristian Petre

Head Beekeeper, Sweet Beginnings

Noah Temaner Jenkins : Development Consultant

Noah Temaner Jenkins

Development Consultant

Pat Cosentino : Chief Financial Officer, Consultant

Pat Cosentino

Chief Financial Officer, Consultant