WESTBOROUGH, Mass. - For the third year, Abby’s House and some dedicated supporters of the nonprofit are raising money for the homeless by spending a night outside in the cold.
This year, temperatures will remain in the low 20s and teens for “A Night in the Cold.” Volunteers said the frigid temperatures only serve to underline the struggles faced by those who often have nowhere to go. While spending one night sleeping inside a cardboard box in a Westborough parking lot only represents a fraction of those struggles, it can help raise money and awareness.
Westborough High School seniors Brady Henderson and Gray Sassetti were inspired to volunteer after their parents took part in the annual sleep-out. Both said as they've gotten older, they've grown a deeper understanding and empathy for those less fortunate.
“It’s really tough to think about what they have to go through every day with sleeping out here," Henderson said. "Obviously it’s very cold today, but some of the days earlier this year it was -10 degrees outside, and living in those conditions would be terrible.”
“Whenever I’m in the presence of someone homeless or any scenario like that, it’s always that first instinct to help out right?" Sassetti said. "It’s that first impression, I should really be doing more, should really be helping out.”
The event, now in its third year, was created by John Bogaert in collaboration with Abby's House. This year, he wanted to inspire more young people to join the cause, and was excited to see Henderson and Sassetti join the ranks.
“I want them to tell their friends how horrible this was," Bogaert said. "I want them to tell them we had to be out there 24 hours, it was freezing cold right from the start. If we had a day that was 40, 50 degrees, they’d probably never say another thing about it, so it’s great when it’s cold like this because it really gets the point across.”
According to Abby's House, 18 to 20,000 people in Massachusetts are currently experiencing homelessness. Since the event started, volunteers have raised more than $50,000 for the organization, which goes a long way in helping the women and children they serve to reclaim and rebuild their lives.
“About 70% of our funding comes from individual donations, so we really rely on them to make sure we can provide the services that we do," said development and communication specialist Meghan Person.
The organization believes with the rising cost of basic necessities and the housing crunch, the amount of people relying on their services is only expected to increase.
With their well-being at stake, senior director of development and communications Kelly Whalen said it's all the more important to show solidarity, support and strength.
“It's a little bit cold, but it’s nothing compared to what women and their children go through each and every night when they’re seeking a safe place to be," Whalen said.
Abby's House provides shelter, affordable housing and support services to homeless, battered and low-income women, with or without children. Since 1976, the nonprofit has helped more than 15,000 women reclaim and rebuild their lives.