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Single N.J. Mom Known as ‘Black Fairy Godmother’ Helps Women in Crisis Through Instagram

People logo People 4/2/2020 Laura Barcella
a woman smiling for the camera: Simone Gordon, 33, sends emergency funds and supplies to women who are fleeing abusive partners, losing their jobs, facing eviction and more © Simone Gordon Simone Gordon, 33, sends emergency funds and supplies to women who are fleeing abusive partners, losing their jobs, facing eviction and more

Thursday, April 2 is World Autism Awareness Day. For more information, visit Autism Speaks’ website.

Simone Gordon may be thriving now — as the organizer behind the flourishing @TheBlackFairyGodmotherOfficial Instagram account, she mobilizes thousands of followers to help women in emergency situations, some life-or-death.

But Gordon, 33, remembers what it’s like to rely on the generosity of strangers.

About seven years ago, the East Orange, New Jersey native — a single mom — was desperate for formula and diapers for her young son, now 9.

“My son has severe autism and is nonverbal, and I needed help for him,” she tells PEOPLE. “But no one was helping me, and every time I asked for help [from non-profit groups], I couldn’t get it.”

a screenshot of a cell phone: Simone Gordon/Instagram © Provided by People Simone Gordon/Instagram

Gordon, a full-time nursing student, heard about a Facebook group called Reparations Requests and Offerings that donated items like “Pampers, wipes, anything you might need” to women of color in crisis. Thanks to this network of strangers, Gordon began receiving an outpouring of supplies for her son.

In 2016, Gordon carried it forward by launching a new Facebook group dubbed The Black Fairy Godmother. “I asked the same women who had helped me to start something amazing with me, to help special-needs families and … minority women,” she says. They set up Amazon and Target wishlists for women requesting urgent help, which made it easier for people to chip in.

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Gordon’s group quickly grew to 100-plus women raising funds to send groceries, diapers, gift cards and more to people in dire straits. “One woman in Maryland had a daughter with a heart condition, and was about to be evicted that day. She needed to raise $1,000,” Gordon recalls. “After we helped her, she gave me the nickname the ‘Black Fairy Godmother,’ and it stuck.”

Gordon eventually moved over to Instagram, where her following expanded even more with the platform of Eat Pray Love author Elizabeth Gilbert. “‘She was like, ‘Who is this girl getting food and diapers for all these kids?’” Gordon says. “She started [pitching in and sharing my page].”

a close up of text on a white surface: Simone Gordon/Instagram © Provided by People Simone Gordon/Instagram

Today, Gordon has more than 13,000 followers who chip in to her grassroots campaigns. These campaigns, which rally support through social media, help women who are fleeing abusive partners, losing their jobs, facing unforeseen medical costs, dealing with evictions, raising money for funerals, or simply struggling to pay their electricity bills.

“For women in domestic violence situations, we get them into temporary Airbnbs and we help them get back to being stable and happy,” Gordon explains, noting that “we also have volunteers to help [families] get stable once the emergency is over.”

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Gordon also provides assistance for special-needs schools and centers, and helps women pay for their educations.

She doesn’t do it all on her own, of course. Gordon has a core group of 12 volunteers who help sift through DMs (she gets dozens each day), set up online fundraisers, and stay in touch with families she’s previously assisted. She gets so many requests for help, Gordon says, it’s impossible to respond to everyone. “We vet the requests we get. We ask for documentation and we follow up.”

a person posing for the camera: Simone Gordon © Provided by People Simone Gordon

Jean, 67, is one of Gordon’s trusty Black Fairy Godmother volunteers. Based in Minnesota, Jean (last name withheld at her request) tells PEOPLE she met Gordon in the Reparations Facebook group.

“Two of my brothers had a physical handicap, and I know how hard that can be on parents and entire families,” Jean says. “To be dealing with the ups and downs of … it as a single mom has to be overwhelming. Add to that the layers of racial bias … and it felt like something I had to support.”

Jean helps fundraise so Gordon has a reliable fund for urgent “diapers, Depends, wipes and formula needs.”

Gordon says she’s incredibly grateful not just for her volunteers, but for her followers, who have pitched in to help all kinds of women, all across the country. “All these women have come together to help me help other women’s lives. This is what we do, and we don’t get paid for this,” Gordon says.

“Followers don’t have to give money; they can buy food or toiletries off our wish lists,” Gordon says. Some have donated clothing, shoes and bags, while others have offered resume writing services for job-seekers, or helped pay for tuition. Companies have also pitched in: “One family in Oklahoma was running from a domestic abuse situation, and Mattress Firm donated new beds for them,” Gordon notes.

a screenshot of text: Simone Gordon/Instagram © Provided by People Simone Gordon/Instagram

The need for help is stronger than ever during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic. “I’m getting a lot of families who lost their jobs because of coronavirus, and I’m not going to turn my back on them,” Gordon says. Some followers have stepped up to deliver groceries for her, and Gordon has raised more than $50,000 for families in need during the worldwide catastrophe.

Want to help? Follow or direct-message @TheBlackFairyGodmotherOfficial on Instagram.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.

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