20th Anniversary

2020 Sweet Beginnings Tea

On Friday, February 28, 2020, we hosted our annual Sweet Beginnings Tea at the award-winning Four Seasons Hotel, followed by a special 20th Anniversary Celebration reception sponsored by Wintrust Bank, William Blair, and iHeart Media.

We are pleased to have honored Meghan Harte, the Executive Director of LISC Chicago, with our 2020 Creating a Community That Works Partner award, in recognition of our longstanding partnership with LISC. We are also excited to have presented our 2020 Voice of the Voiceless award to Orange is the New Black actress Alysia Reiner for her activism and acting work elevating the voices of women facing incarceration. 


To reflect on our 20th year of service, we presented a 5-person panel of our own clients from the past two decades who shared about their journeys to and from NLEN and/or Sweet Beginnings.

2020 Sweet Beginnings Tea Videos 

2020 Sweet Beginnings Tea Photos


2020 Tea Awardees

Meghan Harte

Creating a Community That Works Partner Awardee

Meghan Harte, Executive Director of the Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) Chicago, is a national leader in comprehensive community development and bridging
the racial wealth gap. LISC Chicago’s mission is to connect neighborhoods to the resources they need to
become stronger and healthier. Under Meghan’s leadership, she has created pathways to accessing capital and fostered a unified voice of the 17 neighborhood partner agencies to influence city policies impacting low-income residents of Chicago’s West and South sides.

Alysia Reiner

Voice of the Voiceless Awardee

Best known for her role in the Netflix series "Orange is the New Black", she describes herself as an "actress, activist, producer and eco-momma who uses her superpowers for good." She has elevated the voices of women and formerly incarcerated people  through her activism. She is also a loyal beelove® customer.

See Alysia in action here

Our Sponsors

Everett Dean

Robert Steele Creating a Community That Works Awardee

Everett Dean came to our doors all the way back in 2008, going through U-Turn Permitted and working as a Sweet Beginnings Employee under Brenda Palms Barber, back when she was running the social enterprise. Since then he has pursued training in Carpentry and Construction through Dawson Technical Institute and continued to advance in his career. Not only has he surmounted his own employment and financial barriers, but he is also committed to investing in future generations. He has built a youth basketball program from the ground up in the North Lawndale community for the past 7 years. He not only serves as a role model to his kids in the court, but also to his three daughters.

VonKisha Adams

Creating a Community That Works Awardee

Though VonKisha was dubious about going through "another program", when she came to U-Turn Permitted in 2015, she quickly realized that it was the real deal. She worked at Sweet Beginnings just a block away from the corner where she had once sold drugs in her past life. She not only conquered her fear of bees, but found freedom through the job and financial skills she developed with NLEN's help. She went through the CTA Second Chance program and eventually was hired as a Bus Maintenance Coordinator, overseeing other Second Chance employees. She continues to inspire her employees, who have faced many of the same challenges she has throughout her life.


2019 North Lawndale Employment Network

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