An American woman sets up an institution to care for homeless people after seeing one of them sleeping on the road

Deborah with the children of a shelter.

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Deborah Königsberger was taking her young children to the playground one autumn morning in 1994, when she caught sight of a mother and her baby sleeping in a cardboard box.

Koenigsberger, a New Yorker with a comfortable lifestyle, husband, relationships and work, knew she could help women like this, but she didn't know how to do it.

So, after talking to a friend who had volunteered to help homeless single mothers, Koenigsberger began advising these women on how to address their situation.

In December of that year, she made available Christmas gifts, which her sons didn't need, to provide Christmas gifts for 135 children in a shelter.

She hired a man to represent Santa Claus, fed the children, and gave each child a big red bag full of toys.

In the end, she added gifts for mothers.

For two years, Koenigsberger funded everything herself.

The more this woman becomes involved in this work, the more bleak the lives of homeless single mothers can be.

Many of them suffer domestic violence and run away from home with their children.

Within a few years, this woman founded Hearts of Gold, a charitable foundation that works in shelters for single mothers and children.

"My goal is to help homeless mothers get a chance to live a decent life," she says.

"Many families end up in shelters because they do not have access to the two most powerful game-changing factors: opportunity and education," she says.

Her nonprofit organization has an annual budget of $1.2 million and sponsors 15 shelters.

She has raised more than $20 million since the launch of her organization, and has helped more than 36,000 shelter residents.

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