Brenda Palms Barber

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Brenda Palms Barber wasn’t always drawn to beekeeping. But her quest to find work for residents of Chicago’s economically disadvantaged North Lawndale neighborhood — where some 50 percent of adults have been in the criminal justice system — led her to start Sweet Beginnings, a transitional jobs program for formerly incarcerated individuals and others with significant barriers to employment.

Host Majora Carter accompanies Brenda Palms Barber through the streets of North Lawndale, past churches and crack houses. They tour Sweet Beginnings’ honey factory, inspect the beehives, and chat with ex-offenders who are now the core workforce of this nonprofit enterprise. Sweet Beginnings’ Beeline products — raw honey and honey-based body care products — are now sold throughout the Midwest.

And the recidivism rate for former Sweet Beginnings employees is below 4 percent, compared to the Illinois average of 55 percent and a national average of 65 percent. Brenda Palms Barber is driven by her certainty that “people deserve second chances and you can choose to turn your life around.”

For Brenda and her team, transforming street skills into mainstream competitive skills is a sweet success indeed.



Learn more about Brenda's work with the North Lawndale Employment Network.


See what all that buzz is about.

Sweet Beginnings