Chicago non-profit brightens new moms’ lives with candles

By Xiao Lyu

The soy candles from Bright Endeavors are made with some special ingredients you can’t find in normal scented candles — the tenderness and determination of young moms.

At the nonprofit organization’s pleasant-smelling manufacturing plant in West Garfield Park, new moms aged 16 to 24 learn hands-on skills of candle crafting as part of their 12-week-long transitional jobs program. They also receive essential job training to help them find quality employment after they finish the program.

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Terra Branch had her baby five years ago when she was 18. Having lived in several homeless shelters for more than a year, she now works as a candle finisher at Bright Endeavors. She lives with her son in an apartment provided by the housing program of New Moms, which is the parent organization of Bright Endeavors.

“The experience is different for everybody, but the reason we exist is because young moms especially face a lot of barriers to become self-sufficient,” said Bright Endeavors’ social enterprise supervisor Kelli Nelson. “So we exist to help young moms navigate all of those things in order to work, [and] get a long term, stable job.”

Photo at top: Soy candles of different fragrances are available for sale at Bright Endeavors. (Photo courtesy of Bright Endeavors)