An organization that offers support to sex workers in the St. John's area received a $20,000 gift from an anonymous donor.

The St. John's Status of Women Council says a woman called from the United States to make the donation to the organization.

Jenny Wright, executive director of the council, said the money will be used to help run the Safe Harbour Outreach Program (SHOP), a new program that supports women working in the sex trade in the St. John's region.

Just over a week ago, the group issued a red alert following reports of sexual assaults, including gang rape and sodomy, against sex workers in the city.

Wright said the donation couldn't have come at a better time.

"This was completely out of the blue and we had been through a really hard week the week before with the red alert, and because that program is always underfunded we were starting to feel, my goodness, how are we going to be able to carry on this important work?" said Wright.

"And when the phone call came in it gave us a great deal of hope, because this is from a private citizen."

According to Wright, the donor was adamant about the group pushing for someone to match the donation made.

She said there is a good dialogue open with Judy Manning, the minister responsible for the Status of Women, and she plans to formally approach government about matching the donation.

Wright said $40,000 would keep the program funded and running for a full year, and could help pay the salary for the one employee who keeps the program operating.