Photo by Frank McMains

Supporting single moms

Jennifer Maggio knows what it feels like to be utterly alone. A drunk driver killed her mother when she was 17 months old. Her father married six times. By the time she was 19 years old, she had two biracial children outside of marriage and was living in government housing, involved in an abusive relationship, surviving on food stamps and welfare. For this pretty, peppy class valedictorian, life had not turned out as planned. She felt she had nowhere to turn.

“I had a bathroom-floor moment, where I was literally on the bathroom floor sobbing about the abuse and recognizing the hopelessness of my situation,” recalls Maggio. “It was then, in complete desperation, that I decided to try my local church.”

Through the church, Maggio found faith, a foundation and a network of people who ultimately helped her emerge from darkness. She eventually landed a job in a sales position for a finance company and started to work her way up in corporate America. She transferred to Baton Rouge and met her husband. But even though everything was starting to fall into place for Maggio, she never forgot the fear she felt in reaching out for help.

“Two out of three single moms do not go to church,” says Maggio, who had believed that churchgoers would reject her because of her situation. She wanted to change that.

Maggio started a single moms support group with only three mothers eight years ago. Her goal was to encourage, advise and counsel. This grassroots effort grew quickly.

In 2011 she founded the nonprofit The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. In three years, it has reached 22,000 single mothers through 1,500 support groups in 19 countries. The nonprofit is not affiliated with a specific church, and there are some groups that even meet in apartment complexes or houses. The Life of a Single Mom Ministries helps mothers with financial planning, parenting and emotional needs through curriculum-based training, seminars and events.

“My ultimate goal is for every church across the country to have a formal single moms support group and outreach plan,” says Maggio. “When women get together to support one another and to network, the sky’s the limit.”