12th Annual Sweet Beginnings Tea 2017

12th Annual Sweet Beginnings Tea 2017

From Greg Faulkner

I’m raising money to help men and women get a second chance and a Sweet Beginning! As Secretary of the Board of Directors of the North Lawndale Employment Network and Sweet Beginnings, LLC, I need your help to create at

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Update #2

over 7 years ago

Fifteen years ago, Elaine Austin said goodbye to her three daughters, then 13, 4 and 1, to serve a prison sentence on a federal drug charge. It was the hardest day of her life. She left her children with her mother, and says, “My baby didn’t know who I was when I came home.”

Elaine, 52, a resident of Bronzeville, made the best of a bad situation. While incarcerated, she read inspirational and motivational books to stay rooted in her faith and to stay focused on what she wanted to accomplish after her release. She took advantage of educational programs offered in prison, and earned a horticulture license. Released to a Salvation Army halfway house in 2002, Elaine’s residential advisor helped her set life goals. When Elaine next went before the judge who had sentenced her, he was impressed by her attitude and her accomplishments, as well as her letter of recommendation from NLEN. He eliminated seven years of supervised parole, and asked Elaine to speak to women who were violating parole. Elaine speaks for Judge James F Holderman and other organizations to this day.

Elaine has devoted her career to helping others learn from her mistake. She worked for North Lawndale Employment Network for five years, beginning as a volunteer office assistant and working her way up to Workforce Coach. She has also worked for Jane Addams Hull House and the Chicago Housing Authority Employment and Employer Services. “I love to give back to women who are incarcerated, because I was an incarcerated mom,” said Elaine. Last year, Elaine began working for Catholic Charities as a Family Works case manager, helping 125 CHA residents become more independent and self-sufficient. “When you have people in your life who see potential in you as a person, it means a lot,” said Elaine. “We’re making a difference in each others’ lives. I learn from them. They learn from me.”

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I’m raising money to help men and women get a second chance and a Sweet Beginning! As Secretary of the Board of Directors of the North Lawndale Employment Network and Sweet Beginnings, LLC, I need your help to create at least 300 jobs in 2017. We serve the under- and unemployed residents of the North Lawndale neighborhood and surrounding communities.

North Lawndale’s unemployment rate rose from an estimated 26% in 2000 to approximately 40% in 2012. Forty-five percent of North Lawndale households live below the Federal Poverty Level and 57% of adults in North Lawndale have a history with the criminal justice system. Would you please be so kind to support the organization at any level you can afford? 

We’re also celebrating the 12th year anniversary of our social enterprise, Sweet Beginnings, LLC. Sweet Beginnings, LLC makes the family of beelove™ products, an all-natural line of raw honey and honey-infused body care products. Sweet Beginnings is a wholly owned subsidiary of the North Lawndale Employment Network and offers full-time transitional jobs for formerly incarcerated individuals and others with significant barriers to employment in a green industry – the production and sales of all-natural skin care products featuring its own urban honey.

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Greg Faulkner posted a new update:
over 7 years ago

Update #2

Fifteen years ago, Elaine Austin said goodbye to her three daughters, then 13, 4 and 1, to serve a prison sentence on a federal drug charge. It was the hardest day of her life. She left her children with her mother, and says, “My baby didn’t know who I was when I came home.”

Elaine, 52, a resident of Bronzeville, made the best of a bad situation. While incarcerated, she read inspirational and motivational books to stay rooted in her faith and to stay focused on what she wanted to accomplish after her release. She took advantage of educational programs offered in prison, and earned a horticulture license. Released to a Salvation Army halfway house in 2002, Elaine’s residential advisor helped her set life goals. When Elaine next went before the judge who had sentenced her, he was impressed by her attitude and her accomplishments, as well as her letter of recommendation from NLEN. He eliminated seven years of supervised parole, and asked Elaine to speak to women who were violating parole. Elaine speaks for Judge James F Holderman and other organizations to this day.

Elaine has devoted her career to helping others learn from her mistake. She worked for North Lawndale Employment Network for five years, beginning as a volunteer office assistant and working her way up to Workforce Coach. She has also worked for Jane Addams Hull House and the Chicago Housing Authority Employment and Employer Services. “I love to give back to women who are incarcerated, because I was an incarcerated mom,” said Elaine. Last year, Elaine began working for Catholic Charities as a Family Works case manager, helping 125 CHA residents become more independent and self-sufficient. “When you have people in your life who see potential in you as a person, it means a lot,” said Elaine. “We’re making a difference in each others’ lives. I learn from them. They learn from me.”

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Greg Faulkner posted a new update:
over 7 years ago

Update #1

Read how David got a second chance. Donate today! David Figueroa is a family man, a businessman, and a man who believes in God and in second chances. Released from prison in 2005, David was living in Chicago with his niece while he looked for work. It was difficult to find employment due to his background. “It was very discouraging,” recalls David. “I could have gone back on the streets but I made a promise to God not to do that again.”
That was when a friend told him about North Lawndale Employment Network’s U-Turn Permitted. “I didn’t know programs like this existed – trying to help individuals like myself who screwed up and were looking for an opportunity to make it right,” said David. Here was an organization that was going to help me get the second chance that I needed. I took full advantage of the program.”
He did indeed. Two weeks before graduating from UTP, he had a job offer to work in construction. He has raised a family, including two boys, ages 12 and 5, with a girl on the way in May 2015. “I want to inspire my kids to be better than me – that is my ultimate goal in life, said, David.” I want them to find their niche in life. I want to send them to college, give them everything I never had, give them every opportunity to succeed, to be better people – I set the bar as high as I can for them.”
David’s passion for creating opportunity and changing lives extends beyond his family. “I always had in my heart that my mission was to do something for people like myself – to be a bridge for others.” In 2014, he started his own business, Second Chance Renovations, LLC, a construction/renovation social enterprise that hires, trains and empowers convicted felons who are looking to change their lives and re-enter society as productive law-abiding citizens. And he came back to NLEN to find employees.
Running his own business has presented David with a new set of challenges, including hiring and sometimes having to fire employees. “The mission is greater than one person,” says David. “Greater than me, greater than them. If they continue the bad behavior, it puts the enterprise at risk. There are so many people counting on us. I believe that what we are doing is a game changer – I can’t get discouraged and give up.”
David’s next venture is a non-profit: MMERCI, an acronym for Ministry Mentoring Empowering Renewing Collaborating and Innovating. “I want to send guys back to school. I’m looking to identify individuals who are hard workers – and pay for their tuition [to learn construction skills], so they can better their lives.” His plan, already in motion with the purchase of two buildings in Englewood, is to hire and train workers to renovate distressed properties to serve as halfway houses, orphanages, and affordable housing.
“I see a need for something that a lot of people are ignoring right now, and I want to make a difference,” said David. “I don’t want to receive accolades. I put Jesus Christ in the forefront of everything we are doing. I want to provide for my family, but I’m not into it for the money. I just want to help.”
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