Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Local Lawndale Heroes - Brenda Palms-Barber

North Lawndale Employment Network and Sweet Beginnings

Brenda Palms Barber
Chief Executive Officer

Brenda Palms BarberSince becoming the North Lawndale Employment Network’s (NLEN) founding Executive Director in 1999, Brenda has grown the organization from two to 14 employees and has generated an annual budget of $1.9 million. Annually, NLEN serves 1,200 men and women, placing 75% in unsubsidized employment and hirng others in its transitional jobs program, referring them to entrepreneurial tracks or helping them to secure additional skills and education.

NLEN’s mission is to improve the earnings potential of residents in North Lawndale, one of the most severely economically disadvantaged communities in the city of Chicago. Because of the lack of job opportunities available to NLEN clients, Brenda developed an innovative social enterprise business called Sweet Beginnings, LLC. A wholly owned subsidiary of NLEN, Sweet Beginnings is a transitional jobs program that provides green collar jobs producing honey in an urban neighborhood setting and manufacturing and marketing honey-based personal care products under the beeline® label throughout the Midwest region. Whole Foods Markets and other high-end specialty boutiques like Mark Shale are important partners and distributors of beeline products.

Under Brenda’s leadership, NLEN received one of the first MacArthur Foundation Awards for Creative and Effective Institutions in 2006 Shore Bank conferred the Community Impact Award on NLEN in 2007 and the organization was the recipient of the Federal Going Home Pilot Program in partnership with the Illinois Department of Corrections.

Brenda holds a Bachelor’s degree in Business Management from the University of Phoenix. In July 2008 she attended the Harvard Business School’s Strategic Perspectives in Non-Profit Management program as a Roman Nomitch Fellow on a full scholarship. Brenda was also a member of the second class of graduates from the Chicago Urban League’s nextOne program, an intensive business marketing entrepreneurial training program that included classes at Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management. She was featured in the April 2009 issue of Chicago magazine as a Green Awards recipient and The Black Women’s Expo presented her with the 2009 Phenomenal Woman Award for Community Service.

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