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Our Story

It All Started With A Life Thrust Into Motherhood.

Mary Zeien, founder of The Well of Mercy, was born and raised in Detroit, MI. The second of five children, she excelled as both a student and an athlete. Her future was bright, but at 18, just days away from leaving for college, she found out she was pregnant. Determined to have the baby, she pushed her dream of pursuing a degree aside and married her high school sweetheart.

Mary fell in love with motherhood, and she and her husband went on to have four more children. Marriage wasn’t easy, though, and ultimately they divorced. Despite her new status as single mother of five, Mary made the incredible decision to go back to school, graduating with honors in just three years before pursuing a masters degree in social work.


The Needs Of Single Mothers Felt First Hand

WOM building.jpeg

An internship at a shelter in Detroit confirmed what she’d known since she was 18: One day, she’d open a home for single moms in need—a home where no mother would have to choose between her children and an education. When her youngest daughter graduated, Mary headed West to gain experience as a social worker.

By 2010, having saved enough money to pursue her life’s dream, she moved back to Chicago and opened The Well of Mercy. Fast forward 12 years, and Ms. Mary (as the residents so lovingly call her) has helped hundreds of women regain their footing and discover a better life for themselves and their children.

Countless stories can be told of the parents and children who have found a better path forward at The Well. This home provides the necessities needed to take the first steps towards a healthy, stable future that will impact generations to come.

Watch Our Story Documentary

In 2019, film students at Loyola University made a short documentary, Home for Hope, under the direction of their professor, Emmy-award winning visual storyteller John Goheen. We are grateful for this gift and love the way it tells our story. We hope you do, too!


Single mothers are 5.8 times more likely than married couple families to live in poverty.

2018 study by the National Women’s Law Center


Providing a stable home

It costs about $18,000 for one family to live at the well for one year.

  • Our play-based daycare readies our littlest residents for preschool at age 3

  • Of the 12 parents currently living at The Well of Mercy:

    • 3 are in high school

    • 6 are enrolled in college

    • 7 are gainfully employed


The parents we support

This woman was abused. Her mom was abused. We taught her how to recognize and avoid toxic relationships, and now she can model independence for her daughters.

  • This woman came to us after living in a motel for 6 months. Today, she has a degree, a job, an apartment, and the ability 

  • This year, 2 moms and their children have left our home and are living on their own!

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