Category Archives: Community News

14th Annual Sweet Beginnings Tea

Social Innovation Roundtable: Thursday, August 17, 2017 8:30am to 10:30am

About the Event


Forefront’s Social Innovation Roundtable invites you to a very timely and interesting discussion with William W. Towns, Executive Director for Benefit Chicago. He leads the day-to-day work to help socially motivated businesses and nonprofits access the capital they need to innovate and grow.

Benefit Chicago, a collaboration of the Chicago Community TrustJohn D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, and Calvert Foundation, and has recently announced the first round of impact investments totaling $12 million.

Created in 2016 with the goal of mobilizing $100 million for investments in local nonprofit organizations and social enterprises facing barriers in accessing capital from commercial sources, the funding collaborative awarded loans to six organizations.

AutonomyWorks, was awarded a $600,000 loan to expand its efforts to provide meaningful employment to adults with autism. CNI, a community development corporation and community development financial institution, was awarded a $2 million loan to complete the 111th Street Retail Gateway in Chicago’s Pullman neighborhood. The Garfield Produce Company, was awarded a $500,000 loan to expand production and hire additional employees at its vertical hydroponic vegetable farm.

In addition, mission-driven lender and developer IFF received a $5 million loan to finance a range of community-based projects. LISC Chicago was awarded a $3.5 million loan to support the Southwest Corridor Collaborative, a new community partnership. Sweet Beginnings, a for-profit subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network, was awarded a $500,000 loan to expand production and sales of its honey-based products, which are produced by formerly incarcerated and other residents of the city who have struggled to, find gainful employment.

Attendees will hear update about Benefit Chicago its goal to mobilize impact investments for nonprofits and social enterprises working throughout the Chicago region.

To register for this event, click here.

Arbor Day Recognition


Airport Employees Learn New Ways to Take Action for the Environment

CHICAGO, April 25, 2014 – In celebration of Earth Week, the Chicago Department of Aviation (CDA) Environment Division presented a Lunch & Learn program to promote sustainability awareness amongst airport employees. The workshop offered information on recycling and composting opportunities both at CDA and at home.

As an Arbor Day treat, Brenda Palms-Barber from Sweet Beginnings, LLC stopped by to show a video on the apiary at O’Hare International Airport. Typically people think of bees just for their use in the production of beeswax and honey and may not consider their importance in the pollination of trees and crops. The urban beekeeping performed by Sweet Beginnings helps provide a safe refuge for honeybees that in turn cross-pollinate local plants.

From the Chicago Department of Aviation April 25, 2014 newsletter.

Federal Reserve Chair Highlights NLEN Clients


Federal Reserve Chair Janet L. Yellen highlighted NLEN Clients Dorine Poole and Jermaine Brownlee at the National Interagency Community Reinvestment Conference earlier today.

In her remarks, Chairwoman Yellen described how the Great Recession and anemic job growth have prevented workers like Dorine and Jermaine from maintaining stable employment at a living wage, despite their skills and previous experience.

After serving two years on probation for retail theft, Dorine completed NLEN’s U-Turn Permitted program in 2009. After a three-month transitional job period, Dorine was hired onto the administrative team at Urban Ponics and promoted to Office Manager in April 2012, a position Dorine still holds today. Dorine was honored as a 2013 Creating a Community that Works award recipient for her efforts. Jermaine graduated from NLEN’s U-Turn Permitted program in the fall of 2013 and was soon hired at Sweet Beginnings.

Click here to read Chairwoman Yellen’s full remarks.

Brenda Palms Barber to Speak at Women’s Leadership Forum

Brenda Palms Barber, Executive Director of the North Lawndale Employment Network and CEO of Sweet Beginnings, was featured as one of the speakers at the Ad Club’s 2014 Women’s Leadership Forum in Boston. Click here to view videos of the other amazing women featured at the conference.