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Nonprofit Working To Overcome COVID-19 Challenges To Make Sure Families In Homeless Shelters Get Christmas Gifts

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- For one nonprofit, the rise in COVID-19 cases is forcing it to adapt to meet its Christmas goal.

Volunteers are putting in 12-hour days to get presents wrapped in time for the holiday.

"Hearts of Gold helps homeless moms and kids through job training and through tutoring for the kids and at Christmas we always put together Christmas bags for the kids and the moms," Hearts of Gold volunteer director Bernadette DeCelle said.

It hasn't been easy this year. Over the weekend, more and more volunteers called to cancel.

"Because people are getting nervous or their kids got exposed at school and now they're not feeling like it's safe to come," DeCelle said.

There are also new hurdles like the biggest shelter the nonprofit works with going into lockdown.

"Twenty clients with COVID, that came down with COVID yesterday. So it just shut down all the plans. It's just not safe," DeCelle said.


But the group is determined to get gifts and winter clothing to 400 kids and their mothers across six homeless shelters. Its new strategy is to use volunteers' own cars to drive presents to the locations.

"The people at the shelter helped us unpack and then they will deliver to each door, to each mom, and then with their meals," program coordinator Laura Cashel said.

"COVID or no COVID, you're going to get these gifts to these kids?" CBS2's Leah Mishkin said.

"Yeah, it's long nights, but it's going to be so worth it," Cashel said.

Hearts of Gold founder and CEO Deborah Koenigsberger uses a thrift store to raise money for her nonprofit. She said she has been hiring the mothers to help get them back on their feet for eight years.

"We don't have to worry about saving the world, because you can just save your part of the world," Koenigsberger said. "You see people rise to the occasion and come out and go, 'What can we do? We'll put on a mask. We'll sanitize. We want to help.'"

The founder of Hearts of Gold said another director of a different shelter reached out to her asking if her organization could deliver presents there, too. The shelter has 57 kids there and Koenigsberger said she's going to do everything possible to figure out how to get the funds to make that happen.

CBS2's Leah Mishkin contributed to this report.

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