When schools in New York City shut down to slow the spread of the coronavirus, Nygeer Boyd didn't know how she was going to homeschool three young boys by herself. She had one computer, but it wasn't working, and one son had resorted to trying to do his schoolwork on her phone.
Boyd turned to a community leader, who runs the New York City-based nonprofit Hearts of Gold. "She was talking to me, and I was hearing her soul. She was so overwhelmed," said Deborah Koenigsberger, the founder and CEO of Hearts of Gold.
Hearts of Gold, which has been around for 26 years and helps mothers and children who are low-income, homeless or formerly homeless, was able to give Boyd, who lives in public housing, three Chromebooks for her boys — ages 9, 7 and 5. The laptops had been donated to the nonprofit earlier this year and were being used in its learning center until it had to close under the coronavirus stay-at-home order.
"I was completely shocked," Boyd said. "I didn't know how I was going to get their schoolwork done, and then boom, now I'm in a position where I'm able to hand in their assignments, help them with their homework and so on and so forth."
Boyd works as a freelance hair stylist, but stopped seeing clients after the stay-at-home order.
Koenigsberger also connected Boyd to another mom in Florida who could help tutor her kids. "My oldest son is really struggling in school right now," Boyd said, adding that her sons were being tutored through Hearts of Gold before the shutdowns, and without that help, she was worried her oldest son might have had to be held back a year.
"I really am grateful," Boyd said. "All of the sudden they have laptops, all of the sudden they have a tutor."
Boyd is just one of hundreds of moms Hearts of Gold is trying to support through the pandemic. Over the past couple weeks, Koenigsberger has been putting together kits with supplies like toilet paper, soap, other hygiene products and food. Many of the moms, especially those who live in shelters, suddenly need a lot more than they're used to because their kids aren't going to school, Koenigsberger said.
Hearts of Gold had assembled and delivered about 320 of the kits to shelters as of Monday. "That's within the first week, and honestly, it's only because we haven't filled other orders. We have lists from the shelters. We're just incapable of filling them," Koenigsberger said.
The nonprofit usually has two fundraisers a year, but the one scheduled for May won't be happening because of the virus outbreak. It also had to close its resale store, The Thrifty HoG, in Manhattan, so it's missing the proceeds from there as well.
"Budget-wise, we've had to kind of find this money out of nowhere," Koenigsberger said. "At the moment I'm really just not thinking about the budget. I'm just thinking about the needs."
She doesn't see those needs decreasing any time soon.
"It's not like, 'Okay something bad just happened, so we're going to have a rough week.' There is no end in sight to this thing. We don't know what it is. Moms are very scared," she said.
Koenigsberger is also checking in with moms who she employed at The Thrifty HoG, but had to lay off when the store was forced to close. A top priority is making sure they have enough food for their kids, she said.
"I checked in with one the other day. She had no food left," Koenigsberger said. "They know that although they're unemployed, the whole deal is, you must call me if at any time you need food. We can't have them going hungry. We can't have the kids not having food."