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What's going on at Delta
and who's helping make it happen

Driven Doer: Brenda Palms Barber

08.16.17 | Announcements

Welcome to our Driven Doer series! Every month, we highlight the passionate, motivated people who help advance Delta’s mission of achieving a resilient Great Lakes environment and economy.

Meet Brenda Palms Barber, Executive Director of the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN), an urban workforce development agency, and Founding CEO of Sweet Beginnings, LLC, a social enterprise using urban beekeeping to create jobs for those with significant barriers to employment.

Brenda and NLEN are partnering with Delta to facilitate a working group comprised of local leaders and organizations that will strengthen workforce development opportunities in North Lawndale.

What do you do?

I am the founding executive director of the North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN), established in 1999 and serving 2,500 people to gain new skills, improve their self-worth, secure jobs, and become financially secure each year. Our mission is to improve the earnings potential of North Lawndale and surrounding communities through innovative employment initiatives that lead to economic advancement and an improved quality of life. I am also the CEO and founder of our social enterprise Sweet Beginnings, which produces local honey and skin care products infused with honey.

What drives you and inspires you to get up in the morning?

Providing pathways to restoration of a person’s self-worth through employment. It is deeply rewarding to provide culturally competent workforce development training, financial services, and transitional job opportunities through Sweet Beginnings, and to be a part of the economic and social change we need to see in neighborhoods through the North Lawndale Employment Network. We are helping to connect men and women who have come from economically poor communities with too many poor options to make money and who make poor choices that lead them to serve time behind bars.

How are you currently involved with Delta; what’s exciting about the project?

NLEN was invited by Delta to facilitate a conversation about the needs and challenges of workforce development providers on the west side of Chicago including the North Lawndale Coordinating Community Council (NLCCC) for three meetings. At these meetings, we discussed current conditions and best practices in workforce development, brainstormed solutions to common challenges, and created actionable next steps to better connect job seekers to employment opportunities. This was an awesome experience with tangible actions that will result in constructive and actionable advice for funders and private sector partners to further support the employment of residents in North Lawndale and surrounding neighborhoods.

Describe Delta in 4 words or less:

Smart, resourceful, authentic, and kind.

What’s your favorite place in the Great Lakes region?

Salt Creek Forest Preserve – where we have our largest Sweet Beginnings apiary!