North Lawndale center helps ex-offenders and others find employment

February 13, 2013 2:54:35 PM PST
Chicago's North Lawndale neighborhood is abuzz about an organization that is giving people a fresh start by finding jobs.

The North Lawndale Employment Network aims to help employ formerly incarcerated individuals and others.

The organization equips individuals with the resources and training they need to find work.

Kimberly Isaacs was forced to quit her job in order to take care of her ailing mother.

Now, the center is helping her find work.

"They give me all the tools that I needed as far as access to a telephone, computers, faxing, anything that will make me marketable," said Isaacs.

Ex-offender Joseph Smith says he's had trouble finding work after serving time in prison.

He went through the center's job readiness program and now works as a janitor.

"It gave me hope. I am grateful for the program and sticking with it to move forward," Smith said.

Former inmates like Smith can also take advantage of Sweet Beginnings, a subsidiary of the center that produces honey and honey-based skin care products. The company is staffed almost entirely by ex-offenders.

"We are committed to helping people who have been disconnected from the labor force to get jobs, to equip them to be competative in this challenging economy," said Brenda Palms Barber, CEO of Sweet Beginnings.

The former inmates perform jobs that include extracting honey from their natural urban apiary, manufacturing work, website management, sales and customer service. The line is sold at Whole Foods and used in major hotel restaurants.