While she may be an educator by day, Claudia Verwey's love for animals never turns off. Now, she hopes to put that passion to good use.

The Grade 1 & 2 Teacher at Fort la Reine School recently took on the position of Director of Fundraising at the Portage Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and is keen to make a difference.

"I really try to push empathy and animal care in the classroom, so it's nice to take on a role with PAWS. I've always been a huge animal lover," she notes.

Verwey states that she wanted to take on a role with the not-for-profit for several years, but she had been living in Winnipeg with her husband while he finished a Ph.D. at the University of Manitoba. However, now that the couple has moved back to Portage la Prairie, Verwey says she's excited to give back to the animal community in her time away from the classroom.

"Without PAWS, unfortunately, the fate of stray animals in Portage would be much worse. So, I'm happy to help out."

Verwey says that this role is something she's been interested in doing for a long time, with her family giving her the nickname: "Elly Mae Clampett," a character on The Beverly Hillbillies who once said on the show that animals could be better companions than people.

"It's nice to do this just to give back to the community and help out PAWS. I know they do a lot of good for stray animals in our community," she continues. "Whether you're an animal lover or not, this is a huge thing for our community."

Regarding fundraising events, Verwey highlights some out-of-the-box ideas like a trivia event, movie night, a 50/50 fundraiser, and much more coming soon to raise funds for PAWS's new building, which has been in the works for a while.