By Matt Martinez Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service Published Sep 06, 2021 at 5:46 PM

Once in a while, when Gail Grenier Sweet walks around Milwaukee, she gets approached by women who look familiar.

It happened just a few weeks ago. With tears in her eyes, a woman walked up to Sweet and said: “You gave me a crib when I had nothing.”

For nearly 40 years, Sweet’s organization, the HOPE Network for Single Mothers, has supported women raising children on their own in the city.

Babette Honoré, executive director of HOPE Network for Single Mothers, said the organization’s $5 membership is the only fee moms pay. The rest is free, including the “baby starter kits,” also known as layette bags, that the organization distributes.

Honoré said the layette bags have about $125 worth of supplies, including clothes, diapers, towels and wet wipes. The bags also include a pacifier, a toy and books for the baby as well. These are available to anyone who signs up.

Despite being based in Menomonee Falls, the majority of mothers in the program come from the North Side, Honoré said.

Gracie Marchese, office manager at HOPE Network for Single Mothers, handles deliveries into the city. She also provides assistance in getting mothers connected with resources during visits and from the office. Marchese said she delivers anywhere from seven to 10 layette bags a month.

One of the goals of the program is to help participants stand on their own two feet, whether it’s by finding them secure employment or getting them back to school. The organization gave out $25,500 in scholarships last year to 10 recipients, which they could use for tuition payment or child care while attending school.

Since she founded the organization in 1982, Sweet said she’s been inspired by the thousands of women she’s met.

“You’d be amazed at their great sense of humor and their great resourcefulness,” Sweet said. “If you want something done, ask a single mom. They get it done.”

To join the HOPE Network for Single Mothers, you can fill out this application online or call (262) 251-7333 for assistance.