Megan Bever has always loved animals.
So she's doing what she can to help animals throughout the Carolinas.
In 2008, Bever, took a position as a teacher at the newly opened Polo Ridge Elementary School in the Ballantyne area. After purchasing her condo, she decided to get a dog to accompany her cat.
She searched online and found Marley: a pit bull mix puppy who was at North Mecklenburg Animal Rescue.
"That was my first experience with a rescue. I assumed dogs came from shelters, but this was just two women who did it out of the goodness of their hearts," Bever said.
After learning more about rescues and their goal, Bever got involved.
Animal rescuers save animals from euthanization or take in animals and help find them new homes. Some rescues have facilities where they can keep the dogs, but most look to foster families for temporary housing.
Bever started by marketing on behalf of the rescue dogs. Volunteers took photos of shelter dogs, and Bever posted them online through Facebook and other forums. Other volunteers found them places to stay if the animal's time at the shelter was running out.
Bever also joined the Coalition to Unchain Dogs, a nonprofit volunteer effort to build fences in yards where dogs previously were kept chained.
Bever still helps build fences from time to time, but her focus has changed; she now takes in foster dogs at her home off Rea Road in Ballantyne.
"I fostered for the first time this summer, and I wasn't really sure what I was getting myself into," Bever said.
The American Pit Bull Foundation took a puppy named Piper out of the Gaston County shelter, and Bever took her in, driving her to PetSmart at Northlake Mall each weekend to look for a good family.
Next she hosted Champ, an American bulldog from Greenville, S.C. She had Champ for two months before finding him a home in Georgia.
Bever now is fostering a dog and its two pups. The puppies already have garnered interest, but the adoption process is thorough, and the puppies will not be adopted out until the families' applications are approved.
The 31-year-old third-grade teacher shares her love of animals with her students.
"The third grade just did a big animal charity donation drive for all the animal shelters, and we had a tremendous turnout," Bever said. "Crates, liners, food, treats, toys, bowls, collars - we took a massive load to Charlotte Mecklenburg Animal Control and more to the Gaston County Shelter, and I still have leftovers."
Bever is trying to become a volunteer at Charlotte Mecklenburg Animal Care & Control, a process that requires recommendations, references, fingerprinting and background checks.
When asked how her family and friends feel about her passion, Bever laughed: "They think I'm crazy at times," she said, "but I think when it's something you're passionate about, the end result is pretty rewarding, and you forget about the time and effort that went into it while you were doing it."
Bever said her dream would be to own her own rescue someday. But until she has the resources, she said, she'll continue fostering, donating and fundraising.
"I think that people care and would like to help but maybe don't know how or where to start," Bever said. "There are so many ways, big and small to get involved.
"There is always a great need for foster families, but other considerations include transporting, donating supplies, volunteering at the shelter, building fences, fundraising, photographing shelter animals and so forth.
"Fostering is a great way to determine if you want to get a pet of your own, and it saves lives."