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Community champions and inspiring human success stories honored

The 14th annual Sweet Beginnings Tea was February 15th with Chicago’s First Lady Amy Rule, NLEN Executive Director Brenda Palms Barber, NLEN Board members, corporate partners William Blair, Allstate, JP Morgan Chase also Country Financial, Southwest Airlines, PNC Bank and iHeart Radio. The North Lawndale Employment Network (NLEN), along with its social enterprise, Sweet Beginnings, honored three individuals and one company at its annual fundraiser at the Four Seasons Hotel, 210 E. Delaware in Chicago. The reception began at 200 p.m. following by the Tea at 3:00 p.m.

“I am honored to host our Tea because this event allows us to pause to acknowledge and celebrate some of the people who have shown exceptional promise or have had a significant impact on advancing our work. We created the Community that Works awards and our Voice of the Voiceless award because once a year, it allows us to come together with our supporters to share what’s possible,” stated Brenda Palms Barber.

The Creating a Community that Works Partner Award was given to Country Financial, and accepting for the company was Michael Fisher, Vice President of Community and Business Development. Honored with the Voice of the Voiceless award was Evelyn Diaz, President, Heartland Alliance. Receiving the Community that Works Client award was Sadie Williams. The second recipient of the Robert Steele Creating a Community that Works Award was Lenrow Felton. This award was created in 2018 in honor of the late Robert Steele, Cook County Commissioner.

The more than 400 attendees, including Chicago business leaders and politicians, were treated to honey-infused cocktails created by the hotel chef especially for the Tea using Sweet Beginnings’ own beelove® urban honey. There was also a non-alcoholic honey apple cider libation along with delectable finger sandwiches and irresistible desserts. Honey infused beelove® products were the highlight of the afternoon and on full display for attendees.

The reception was emcee’d by Bionce Foxx of V-103, an iHeart Media Chicago station. The Tea was co-hosted by LeeAnn Trotter, Entertainment Reporter at NBC5 Chicago and Robin Robinson.

To learn more about NLEN and Sweet Beginnings visit or

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