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“Draft Town” in Grant Park – Trees & Bees in North Lawndale!

The North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN)
Tuesday, April 26, 2016
Contact: Brenda Palms Barber, (773) 638-1825

“Draft Town” in Grant Park – Trees & Bees in North Lawndale!

Chicago, Illinois – With the NFL draft returning to Chicago April 28-30, a partnership between the NFL, the Chicago Sports Commission, Verizon, and the Rotary Club of Chicago-O’Hare has teamed up to sponsor beehives in Sweet Beginnings’ apiaries.

“This ‘Pollinator Partnership’ helps to bring a million bees to Chicagoland, providing for a healthier, more bee-friendly environment, while helping provide meaningful opportunity to those with significant barriers to employment,” said Brenda Palms-Barber, NLEN executive director and founder and CEO of Sweet Beginnings, LLC.  “We are grateful to the NFL, the Chicago Sports Commission, Verizon, and the Rotary Club of Chicago-O’Hare for helping to change lives, one jar of honey at a time.”

Sweet Beginnings, LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network, is a social enterprise launched in 2004 with the purpose of creating jobs for men and women who cannot secure a job due to lack of experience and other barriers, especially a criminal background. Sweet Beginnings manufactures the family of beelove™ products, an all natural line of raw honey and honey-infused body care products using honey extracted from its urban apiaries throughout Chicago. To date, Sweet Beginnings has employed 415 individuals and helped the vast majority of them to transition to other jobs.

[Quote from Dave Robbins or NFL here?] “This is one of several sustainability projects connected to the 2016 Draft events,” according to NFL Environmental Director Jack Groh. “It is a way to create a green legacy by working with the host community.”

For more information about hive sponsorship, email

North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN) is an urban workforce development agency that works to improve the earnings potential of community residents through innovative employment initiatives, leading to economic advancement, and an improved quality of life.  Annually, NLEN serves more than 2,500 people who have significant barriers to employment, including criminal backgrounds and lack of work experience. Social enterprise Sweet Beginnings, LLC., respects the earth in the production of its beelove™ line of urban honey and honey-infused skincare products, and provides important transitional job opportunities for area residents who struggle with barriers to employment.


New Grant for Financial Opportunity Centers

As part of intensified efforts to help jobless Americans gain employment in specialized industries, seven Financial Opportunity Centers (FOCs) in Chicago have been selected to receive sub-grants from LISC through the Social Innovation Fund (SIF). These grants are targeted to implement contextualized bridge programs and integrated employment, financial, and income supports services under the Bridges to Career Opportunities program model.

The centers being awarded sub-grants are the Center for Changing Lives, Central States SER, Instituto del Progresso Latino, Jane Addams Resource Corporation, Metropolitan Family Services, North Lawndale Employment Center, and the Preservation of Affordable Housing.

Representatives from the seven Chicago FOCs that are receiving new grants through the Social Innovation Fund.

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WTTW’s Chicago Tonight Features Building Bridges, Building Connections

They are an unlikely group of lunch mates: a handful of Chicago police officers and 12 people working to rebuild their lives after serving time in prison.

But a program through a North Lawndale nonprofit gives these two populations the chance to meet–over lunch–and discuss the issues in their communities and foster stronger ties.

Though the meetings have been held monthly for the last four years, “Chicago Tonight” sat in on the first to take place since the Laquan McDonald video was released on Nov. 24.

Brandis Friedman has the story.

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Laquan McDonald Shooting – Agency Response

Dear North Lawndale Community, Partners and Friends:

On Tuesday November 24, 2015 the world witnessed, yet again, a horrific video of an African American teenager being shot to death, this time, by a Chicago police officer.

We at the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN), a 15 year old workforce development agency located on the Westside of Chicago in the 24th ward, are deeply saddened by this video. The brutality and disregard for human life on display is of the most vicious kind. We praise efforts to bring justice to the McDonald family and the Chicago community, to eradicate the structural racism embedded in our policing and legal system, and we fully agree with the charge of first degree murder.

Yet, we are angered by the parade of excuses and talking points from officials throughout the city administration that have obscured the truth and delayed justice. We have waited, along with many in our city, for details about this case for over a year. Had there not been dashboard cameras and continual pressure from activists, journalists, and community leaders, we might still be waiting. This lack of accountability and systemic corruption conveys to black and brown youth of this city that their lives do not matter; that their futures are expendable.

The North Lawndale Employment Network has long fought to improve the earnings potential and the quality of life for these futures through the revitalization of our neighborhood scarred by chronic poverty and neglect. We are dedicated to working with formerly incarcerated men and women because we believe that people should not be judged by their worst mistake, but based on their potential, their resilience, and their hard work. We hope that others across this city can come to see this tremendous potential and believe that transformations are possible.

At NLEN, we know that there are good people who serve as police officers, far more then those who do evil. Over the past four years, we have become proud partners of the Chicago Police Department, specifically, districts 10 and 11. We respect the enormous responsibility and danger they face to keep our community safe. In his press conference before releasing the video, Mayor Emmanuel talked about building bridges between police and communities. Since 2012, NLEN’s U-Turn Permitted program—a program committed to helping ex-offenders gain employment—has worked to do just that. Further, in our Building Bridges, Building Connections program we facilitate dialogue between ex-offenders and police officers to increase understanding and humanize both our clients to officers and officers to our clients. This is an attempt to ensure that moments like October 20, 2014 never, ever happen again. We invite anyone interested in learning more to visit us and witness the honest, raw and promising dialogue that happens during our job readiness programs each cohort, 12 times a year.

In light of this respect, we demand the Chicago Police Department live up to its commitment to serve and protect. For us, this protection comes in following due process of law. We have heard far too many reports from members of our community and participants in our programs that officers in the Chicago Police Department have violated their rights with unlawful stops, intimidation, and unprovoked violence. We cannot accept this behavior. Nor can we accept the cover up of Laquan McDonald’s murder. We stand with our community in demanding systemic change as well as accountability for those involved in covering up McDonald’s murder. We demand consistent and fair practices that protect all the city’s residents, not just some. We demand that when officers do violate the law, that the response be swift and severe. This systemic change will allow us to continue the deep and difficult work of building bridges and mutual connections of trust and respect vital to effecting generational and systemic impact.


The North Lawndale Employment Network

Shuttered Sears Tower in North Lawndale Gets Second Life As Community Hub

By Stephanie Lulay | November 17, 2015 3:48pm |

 Mayor Rahm Emanuel was joined by North Lawndale leaders to celebrate the reopening of historic Sears, Roebuck and Co. Tower in North Lawndale. The tower, at 906 S. Homan Ave., will serve as a community hub driving revitalization in the neighborhood.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was joined by North Lawndale leaders to celebrate the reopening of historic Sears, Roebuck and Co. Tower in North Lawndale. The tower, at 906 S. Homan Ave., will serve as a community hub driving revitalization in the neighborhood.

NORTH LAWNDALE — For seven decades, the 14-story Sears Tower on the massive Sears, Roebuck and Co. campus was a symbol of pride and hard work in North Lawndale. At its height, 22,000 Sears employees worked there every day.

But when Sears decided to move its headquarters to the Loop in 1974, those jobs began to leave North Lawndale. Then the distribution facility closed altogether in 1987 and the 3.3 million-square-foot building attached to the tower was later demolished.

Ald. Michael Scott Jr. (24th), who grew up in the ward he now represents, was just a kid when the Sears campus in North Lawndale started to dismantle around the tower.

“And I [would] ask my father, ‘Why is this building here, and why is everything kind of coming down around it? He explained to me it was symbol for what North Lawndale was,'” he said. click here to continue reading