2021 November MVP: Cam and Claudia Verwey | Winnipeg Humane Society
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When PhD student Cam Verwey needed volunteer hours to get his professional designation, the chance to volunteer alongside his wife Claudia and help animals at the Winnipeg Humane Society was the ‘cat’s meow,’ so to speak.

“I’m a PhD student in Mechanical Engineering,” Cam explained. “As registration for becoming a professional engineer, there’s a volunteer requirement. To make up those hours, we thought right away about the Winnipeg Humane Society. We knew they always need volunteers and we’ve always loved animals.”

Claudia added that the opportunity to spend more time together and help animals was a bonus. “Cam wanted me to volunteer with him and I said ‘Only if we can help animals. I wasn’t interested in any other volunteering but right away I checked with the Humane Society to see what we could do.’” She added that as a Grade One teacher, she helps people all day. Helping animals would add some variety.

Many years ago Claudia volunteered as a dog walker and the positive environment for volunteers – in addition to the helping of animals – were the main reasons she thought of the WHS.  At that time there were no openings for dog walkers, but another volunteer position appealed to them.

So, once a week (sometimes twice, when required) the Verweys get in their truck and deliver food, cat litter and occasionally toys to people who call in to the WHS Emergency Pet Food Bank and ask for supplies for their pets.

Cam is responsible for the driving and delivering most of the parcels to the door, while Claudia takes care of navigation and contacting people by phone to confirm they are home and that they can accept the delivery.

“Overall, people’s response when we call them to let them know we’re there is sheer happiness, Claudia explained. “One lady, when we called her we could hear her talking to her pet and letting him know the food was here. The dog was so excited! They’re so grateful for the help.”

A few of the people have explained that they’ve recently lost their jobs so money is tight and they’re in a position where they can’t afford to – or are struggling to – feed their pet any more, they said.

The position has taken Cam and Claudia all over the city. In a shift that’s allotted for two hours they deliver an average of five parcels to households – their record is seven and one day there was only one parcel to deliver. Each parcel contains enough supplies for one month, depending upon the number of pets in the house. Most of the recipients are cat owners and there are a few places where they have delivered to more than once since starting in May, 2021.

“Whoever does the packaging beforehand does a really good job of labeling the names and taping the boxes up,” Cam said. “We just have to pick it up and make sure the names on the packages match those on the list.

“Taking this position is something we enjoy, so it’s turned out to be a really good decision,” he added.

Their only problem lies with the short hours of sunlight in the winter. “It gets really hard to find places in the dark,” Claudia said. “Daylight makes more sense in the wintertime, and the WHS is open so we can pick up the boxes and when we get there we call the people and let them know we’re there.” The Humane Society was eager to work with us to change our shifts to the weekend to accommodate us, they added.

The food bank provides a valuable service, they explained. It enables pets to remain with their families instead of being returned to shelters. This is beneficial for both the animals and the people involved. People should remember the food bank and, at this time of year, consider throwing some pet food in the collection box for distribution through the Christmas Cheer Board or other agencies providing similar aid this time of year.

“Cam and Claudia have been integral members of our Food Bank volunteer team,” said the WHS Administrator of Volunteer Services Amy Brake. “With us from the beginning of this initiative, they continually go above and beyond. Our Emergency Food Bank program would not be successful without volunteers like Cam & Claudia.”