WEST BOYLSTON, Mass. - On Saturday, hundreds of people ran and walked to raise money for Abby's House, a local shelter for women and children who have experienced homelessness, domestic violence and other traumas.

The nonprofit organization's 13th annual 5K in West Boylston exceeded its $60,000 fundraising goal, and the money will go a long way toward affordable housing, advocacy and support services.

Executive director Stephanie Page said now more than ever, it's money much needed.

"It's been a really hard time coming out of COVID, people are still isolated, there's still barriers to receiving services, women have faced many different challenges," Page said. "We know it's more important than ever to be there for women, and we know it's more important than ever to do all we can and put all of our resources and effort toward breaking down barriers and connecting women to what they need."

For more than 40 years, Abby's House has given women in unsafe or unstable situations like Jacqueline Williams a place to go. 

"I wasn't ashamed to go into a shelter at all, because we all fall down but we all get up," Williams said.

When Williams felt alone, she said the organization provided the safety and solidarity she needed to start her next chapter. 

"When you have nowhere to go, that's where my help came from," Williams said. "And Abby's House had so many amazing programs, I took advantage of all of them."

Now, Williams is a board member, helping other women move their lives forward. Her best advice draws from her own experience, serving as a beacon of hope and strength. 

"You should still hold your head up high and be proud," Williams said. "You're not going to be on the down low for a while, you will continue to move up, but you've also got to encourage yourself. I would do anything for Abby's House, just like they were there for me, I'll be there for them."

If you were unable to participate in the 5K or donate, Page said there's year-round opportunities to pitch in. You can visit the Abby's House website, stop by their shelter on High Street, or call them at (508)-756-5486 to learn more.