One Cause At a Time – Archive

An Archive of Chicago Now One Cause at a Time Posts

Archive for February 2016

Meeting Old and New Community Connections

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North Lawndale Employment Network - Sweet Beginnings Tea

Connection: a word that has multiple meanings within multiple contexts. For my professional life, it means both technological (through social media, online communications, mobile) and personal (friends, family, networking). In the past few weeks, I have been reengaging with the greater community after having to withdraw due to personal concerns (including one family member’s health issues, and the death of another). I have been in the process of engaging (and in some cases, reengaging) my network of community connections.

Presently, I’m not only grateful to be resuming that habit, but want to continue expanding my community connections on a regular basis.

Much of that has happened through this blog, with organizations reaching out to me for exposure. For example, a week ago this past Friday , I attended North Lawndale Employment Network’s 11th Annual Sweet Beginnings Tea, and was really impressed with the work that the nonprofit is doing in the North Lawndale neighborhood. (My blog post about North Lawndale Employment Network goes into much greater detail.) Despite coming at the end of a very busy work week, it was a great lead-in for the weekend with many people from both the greater community and within their own organization being awarded for their efforts. It also a great reminder of why I enjoy writing about community-driven efforts; it is a a consistent reminder that everyone deserves a second chance in their lives, that rebuilding our communities takes consistent effort and creativity, and that many nonprofits may slip under the radar and go unrecognized without effort. I also have to admit that I really enjoyed the tea.

(No, seriously – tins of tea were available at each table. One of them went home with me.)

C Now - Blogapalooza Post 03

Yesterday was spent at the Chicago Charity Challenge Awards breakfast, focusing on high performers in corporate philanthropy. As I’ve written in the past, the Chicago Charity Challenge focuses on partnerships between private companies and nonprofits. Such partnerships “compete” to raise money, drive volunteer efforts, and make a positive impact on the greater Chicago community. Although many partnerships were awarded for their efforts, the 2015 Grand Prize Give Back Award went to Kolcraft (a company focused on infant equipment like strollers and cribs) and March of Dimes for their work in fostering safe pregnancies and improving infant health.

On the surface, this may seem shallow – a note about past events and highlighting for publicity. But scratch the surface, and both North Lawndale Employment Network and Chicago Charity Challenge are doing the same thing: building community connections with diverse groups.

In my past, I worked as a community organizer around substance abuse prevention issues in St. Louis. My work took me into a wide range of areas: north St. Louis City, Jefferson County to the south, and far-west Franklin and St. Charles counties. In that case, I had to move out of my comfort zone and build those community connections so that work could be done. Currently, my work as a freelance consultant refers to “connections” in a strictly digital sense – followers, engagement, the usual social media buzzwords. Living in Chicago has taught me that the heart of driving community development and positive impact lies in building strong connections.

Connections are at the heart of who we are as human beings, enabling us to relate to each other despite our differences. Unfortunately, the past year and a half has seen an increase in those connections breaking down. But in driving social change in Chicago, building those connections is critical. As someone who works in that field, I have to admit that sometimes I will set aside such activities because I am “too busy”….but it’s those connections that strike at the heart of why I enjoy working in social change.

Building community connections is never simple, but both North Lawndale Employment Network and Chicago Charity Challenge demonstrate that it can be done with creativity, ingenuity, and passion. My own habit of engaging community connections has been reignited, and this time, I have no excuse not to do it.

Know any great community organizations doing great work? Please feel free to make suggestions in the comments section below, or reach out to us via our Facebook page. You can receive updates via e-mail (instructions below), or contact me personally via the About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.



“Where’s The Fair Use?” – Video

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Many nonprofits and social ventures are concerned about “Fair Use” when it comes to online media.

In an effort to help educate, here’s a video – with slightly more pop culture focus – that’s making the rounds, and that should be a great primer.

It’s about twenty minutes, but well worth your time….and which answers the question, “Where’s The Fair Use?”

Written by gordondym

February 18, 2016 at 5:11 pm

Meet Your Neighbor: North Lawndale Employment Network

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Writing this blog brings several great things: awareness of many Chicago organizations doing great work; spotlighting key issues, and getting to write two vastly different phrases in my writing.

Like “North Lawndale Employment Network” and “tea”.  Next Friday, that pairing won’t sound so strange. (And thanks to North Lawndale Employment Network for giving us the heads-up)

Like many other Chicago neighborhoods, North Lawndale was an industrial center that drove economic growth. Now, with many unemployed and underemployed residents, the neighborhood faces challenges which the North Lawndale Employment Network faces on a daily basis.  Programs that cover a diverse range of interests – from financial literacy to building bridges between ex-offenders and police.  North Lawndale Employment Network even runs its own social enterprise called Sweet Beginnings LLC (which produces beelove-branded products), providing people much-needed job training and skills while crafting unique products that are sold throughout the city.

Next Friday, February 19th, North Lawndale Employment Network will sponsor its 11th Annual Sweet Beginnings Tea event at the Imperial Ballroom of the Fairmont Hotel, located at 200 North Columbus Drive in Chicago. Focusing on “creating a community that works”, the event will be emceed by Chicago news veteran Robin Robinson.

One of the highlights will be presenting Bob Mariano, President, CEO and Chairman of Roundy’s, with the Voice of the Voiceless Award. Mr. Mariano has demonstrated strong support of Sweet Beginnings LLC.  Not only can you find its  products at Mariano’s, but he has also worked to provide employment opportunities and second chances for returning citizens.

The February 19th event will also highlight organizations that win NLEN’s Creating A Community That Works Award, which includes

  • Retired Chicago Police Department First Deputy Alfonza Wysinger and interim Superintendent John Escalante accepting, for their advocacy of NLEN’s Building Bridges, Building Connections program, which was designed to address the tensions between police and community, to foster understanding and to change the way that African American citizens and police engage with each other.
  • Allstate SVP of Corporate Relations Victoria Dinges, who is accepting the award on Allstate’s behalf. Allstate has been active in driving positive chance through youth empowerment programs, as well as programs that promote safety and prevent domestic violence.  By supporting these and other NLEN programs like U-Turn Permitted Program, Allstate not only plays a direct role in community building…but also strengthens its organizational core.
  • Cook County Commissioner Robert Steele, for his dynamic leadership and unwavering commitment to the citizens he serve, as well as allowing Sweet Beginnings to expand its beehives into the Cook County Forest Preserve.

Registration for the event begins at 2:30 pm, and the event lasts from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. For more details and to register, visit

The reason we call this segment “Meet Your Neighbor” is that we like to highlight some of the great work going on in the city. Next week, at least, you’ll get to meet your neighbor in person….and get to know North Lawndale Employment Network much better.

Know any other great organizations that should be highlighted? Please let us know in the comments section below or drop a note via our Facebook page. You can receive updates via e-mail (instructions below), or contact me personally via the About page.

And as always, thanks for reading!

Type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.

Written by gordondym

February 12, 2016 at 12:08 pm

Your February Guide to Chicago Nonprofit Events

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Every month, we try to feature some upcoming nonprofit events for Chicago-area professionals. So without further adieu, here is a small sampling of upcoming events you might want to check out:

Know of any other great events coming up in February? Simply leave them in the comments below (we’ll be sure to update this post), or tell us via our Facebook page. (If you want to reach me directly, simply use this “Contact Me” form)

And as always, thanks for reading!

Want to receive updates via e-mail? Just type your email address in the box and click the “create subscription” button. My list is completely spam free, and you can opt out at any time.


Written by gordondym

February 1, 2016 at 9:27 am