12/23/2011 08:20 EST | Updated 02/22/2012 05:12 EST

Donors help Toronto women's shelter get new boiler

Staff at one of Toronto's oldest women's shelters say more than their hearts have been warmed by generous donors who chipped in to fix a heating system that conked out days before Christmas.

Margarita Mendez is the executive director of Nellie's women’s shelter, where a boiler breakdown on Wednesday left them fearing a cold Christmas.

Started in 1973, the shelter is located in a century old building at 970 Queen St. E in Riverdale. Mendez said much of the shelter’s reserve fund has gone into other repairs over the past year, including a new roof.

Heating technicians told Mendez on Wednesday the shelter’s old boiler was beyond repair and had to be replaced.

"We had to find a way to replace it as soon as possible,” Mendez told CBC News. “We had no choice.”

Shelter staff turned to Twitter and Facebook to ask for donations to avoid dipping further into the shelter’s reserve fund. The shelter also posted a plea for support on their blog.

'A special Christmas gift'

Their plea quickly went viral. Within 24 hours, the shelter received close to $16,000 in donations, surpassing their original goal of $12,000.

“We have been informing people that the goal has been reached but they continue to support us and want to donate,” said Mendez. "They have opened their pockets and their hearts to support the shelter,” she said.

“This is a special Christmas gift for [the residents]. We are already thanking all the donors.”

A message posted on the shelter's blog says the new boiler is "already on its way."

"Thanks to you, the residents of Nellie’s will sleep safe, sound, and warm tonight and through the winter," the message reads.