This year marks the 25th anniversary of the nonprofit organization Hearts of Gold. The organization was founded by Deborah Koenigsberger in 1994, and she and her team work hard to provide support and tools to the homeless and impoverished population of New York City.
Hearts of Gold is a small nonprofit that has made a positive impact on more than 33,720 homeless women and children. Not many people are aware of this organization, yet it has been able to thrive in New York for 25 years. Koenigsberger’s goal is to transition people out of shelter life and give them the skills to be fully independent members of the community.
“Deborah is a force to be reckoned with,” Alison Hayden, the account director for Mulberry and Astor, which is the firm that works directly with Hearts of Gold, said. “She is constantly moving and constantly doing. You could meet her for five minutes and the next thing you know you are volunteering.”
Years after starting Hearts of Gold, in 2010 Koenigsberger went on to open the Thrifty Hog, an upscale thrift boutique where homeless women work to learn retail skills, as well as develop the ability to see the value in themselves and get back on their feet.
Koenigsberger isn’t one to give handouts. She didn’t want the high-end clothing just given away, but instead wanted those in need to earn their living. All the proceeds from the store go back to services for the homeless.
“There are plenty of organizations that give handouts,” Hayden said. “She’s [Koenigsberger] not a handout type of person. She really interacts personally with everyone she works with. She always has meaningful interactions with the mothers and their children and wants every person to feel validated.”
Hearts of Gold offers several programs and services to encourage homeless women and children to gain the skills they need to re-insert themselves into society. These include Fresh Start University, youth education and tutoring, summer enrichment for teens, back-to-school backpack giveaway and coats for Christmas.
Fresh Start University is the largest program of its kind and provides training classes with topics including resumé building, interview tips, self-assessment and more. The program also has workshops as well as paid internships that allow them to start making a living again. The result is to help these women establish a stable career path.
“It’s about dusting yourself off and finding those skill sets that match a career,” Hayden said. “You have to show up. Show that you’re willing and the program will really help you.”
The nonprofit not only works to help mothers, but has several programs to keep children educated through schooling and tutoring. Hearts of Gold employs local high schoolers to work at the tutoring centers to help younger kids. There are also services during the summer so that kids can continue to learn.
Koenigsberger has even bigger goals for youth in the future. She wants to grow and expand the learning centers, and eventually have locations all five boroughs.
This year, Hearts of Gold had their annual Christmas party two days before the Christmas coat giveaway in late December. It was a huge week for Hearts of Gold, with hundreds of people coming to the dinner while 500-plus came to the coat drive. Both events were open to families who live in shelters.
“It’s nice to know you’re giving, and the money and time you put in are going directly back into the organization,” Hayden said. “Everyone who gets help from Hearts of Gold is genuinely and truly grateful for Deborah and her team.”
For more information or to donate, visit www.heartsofgold.org.