Why Returning Citizens?

Our Neighborhood

If you don’t know, beelove was born out of the North Lawndale Employment Network, a non-profit organization that was founded on a simple idea – if you give people jobs, you not only change their individual lives, but you can transform a community.

You see, North Lawndale, the community we work in on the west side of Chicago, has a problem. After years of systemic oppression, tensions in the neighborhood boiled over in 1968 during the MLK and DNC riots, and business fled. Without proper government support, the neighborhood has been struggling ever since. On top of many other issues, North Lawndale is a grocery desert and a bank desert – meaning fast food restaurants and predatory financial establishments are often resident’s only choice.

Scarce Opportunity

It’s also a job desert. Without any industry, it’s impossible for people to find legal jobs, and so they have to turn to illegal means of survival. Mix that with a police force that has a historically bad relationship with its constituents, and you get high levels of incarceration, which decreases the chance of employment even further.

It’s a seemingly unbreakable cycle. But there is hope. If a formerly incarcerated individual goes through NLEN’s “U-Turn Permitted” job readiness program, and then spends three months working at Sweet Beginnings, their likelihood of returning to prison after three years is reduced from 55%, the average in Illinois, to only 4%. That’s not a typo!

That’s why we do the work we do. We’ve learned a lot about first, second, and third chances. When you invest in people that haven’t been given much of an opportunity before, they are so much more likely to make a better life for themselves and their communities.

We’ve helped become change agents in our neighborhood. Like pollen to honey, North Lawndale is transforming into something more than a forgotten neighborhood on the West side of Chicago every day.

How You Can Help

Every time you shop at beelove, you’re not only getting a great product, you’re helping to give someone a chance to turn their life around, and make a U-Turn. You’re helping reduce recidivism in Illinois, and giving us the opportunity to further develop and expand our model so we can help other communities implement the same model, and combat recidivism and mass incarceration at the neighborhood level.

You’re shopping with impact. You’re helping change lives.

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Neila Adams

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