A group that is fighting to save an historic Cape Breton church just got one step closer to their goal, thanks to a generous Christmas gift.

The Stone Church Restoration Society is a group that has been set up to restore the St. Alphonsus Church, on the shores of Sydney Harbour, N.S.

The group hopes to complete restoration of the exterior and interior structure of the building over the next five to ten years.

Melanie Sampson is a member of the Stone Church Restoration Society. She recently received a phone call from a woman who wanted to donate some Christmas cash towards the group’s efforts.

“She asked me to stop by and pick up a donation. I thought it would be $25, $50 at the most,” says Sampson.

When she picked up the donation, Sampson quickly realized it was much more than anticipated.

“When she handed me the envelope and I opened it up, much to my surprise it was $5,000,” says Sampson.

Overwhelmed by the woman's generosity, Sampson says it was hard to keep herself together.

“I just started to cry immediately. She hugged me…I hugged her,” says Sampson.

The Good Samaritan wishes to remain anonymous. According the Stone Church Restoration Society, the donor is not someone with a lot of money. She is simply a person who recently sold her car, got a lot more for it than anticipated and wanted to pay it forward.

“When I think of the money that person gave, I can hardly talk. I get a lump in my throat,” says Bill White, society member. “People like that are the people that are going to actually save it.”

The restoration society had been on a tight timeline to come up with the money for its first mortgage payment.

The group recently reached a deal with the Diocese of Antigonish to buy the building for $40,000 – half of that is due by the end of January.

“With her help, now we have exceeded that $20,000 and we can work towards just the associated legal costs,” says Sampson. “Of course we still have to raise another $20,000 in the New Year, but because of this Christmas miracle, we are going to have the keys at the end of January.’

The group hopes to one day re-open the nearly century old building as a non-denominational wedding chapel and tourist attraction. A goal they say they are closer to reaching thanks to their mystery benefactor.

“She wanted to help. This was her gift to helping save a piece of Cape Breton heritage,” says Sampson.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Ryan MacDonald