Animal Welfare Alliance

Poplar Bluff school system raises $2.3K for Animal Welfare Alliance
Posted on 11/15/2022
Gage Sparks, Dr. Josh Teeter, Marge Van Praag, Charlotte W. Craig, Marley Wertenberge, Kelly Lawson, Kayden Hadley-Rommel, Bralin Duckett and Veronica Brassfield.

A teacher’s chance visit to a local dog groomer has led to a month-long series of student fundraisers generating thousands of dollars for the no-kill animal shelter in Poplar Bluff.

The Middle School art department and High School Student Council recently raised over $2,300 for the Animal Welfare Alliance of Southeast Missouri.

“It was a lot of little things that built up to make a big thing,” explained Dr. Josh Teeter, Middle School principal. His staff plans to make the fundraiser an annual tradition and perhaps push the initiative out to the rest of campus.

The partnership started when Kelly Lawson took her Bichon Frise, Obi, to Doggy Designs over the summer. After Lawson mentioned that she worked at the Middle School, owner Mark Panagos inquired whether she knew the art teacher. Once he discovered he was speaking with her, coincidentally, Panagos asked if students would hold a silent auction with pet portraits to support the AWA, a nonprofit over which he serves as board member.

Lawson brainstormed with her colleague Veronica Brassfield, and art students soon began auctioning portraits, selling stuffed animals for adoption and making charm bracelets among other ideas resulting in over $1,000 raised during the month of October. The duo chose autumn to coincide with the AWA’s annual “Howling at the Moon” event.

“The kids ate it up,” Brassfield said. Lawson added: “Everybody loves animals here, and the kids just like being involved. It brought a lot of people together.”

Lawson also credited PBHS senior Bralin Duckett, who assists in her classroom through the A+ students as mentors (SAM) program, for helping to coordinate the various activities. In his role as Student Council president, Duckett further selected the AWA as the service project for the recent Missouri Association of Student Councils Southeast District meet held at PBHS. An impromptu coin war was initiated among the 29 participating schools, generating an additional $1,300 for the organization.

“For each district meet we have a service project,” Duckett noted. “We were searching for what we can do, and we got that accomplished in just a half-hour.”

A little over a year ago, the AWA opened a no-kill shelter in the former Hillcrest Animal Hospital on South Westwood Boulevard. Since that time, the organization has averaged one pet adopted per day, according to board president Marge Van Praag. The organization gained its 501c3 status in 2009, and has spent over $120,000 on spay and neutering vouchers for pet handlers in need, according to board secretary Charlotte W. Craig.

While it is presently at capacity, the AWA accepts cats and dogs – that can be purchased by customers for an adoption fee, which covers fixing costs and up-to-date shots. The nonprofit services Butler, Carter, Ripley and Wayne counties. For more information, visit, or search for the organization on Facebook.


Cutline: (Left to right) Sixth grader Gage Sparks; Dr. Josh Teeter, Middle School principal; AWA president Marge Van Praag and secretary Charlotte W. Craig; sixth grader Marley Wertenberger; art teacher Kelly Lawson; fifth grader Kayden Hadley-Rommel; high schooler Bralin Duckett; and art teacher Veronica Brassfield.

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