TN Aquarium volunteer logs 10,000 hours of service - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

TN Aquarium volunteer logs 10,000 hours of service

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Tennessee Aquarium volunteer Fran Hiestand. TN Aquarium photo Tennessee Aquarium volunteer Fran Hiestand. TN Aquarium photo

Fran Hiestand’s family was among the first to purchase a membership when the Tennessee Aquarium first opened in 1992. “I visited a couple of times and was really impressed,” said Hiestand. “But I always left wanting to learn more.”

That curiosity about the plants and animals only deepened when she signed up for volunteer docent classes in 1993. “I thought I could really learn about everything in the Aquarium by becoming a docent,” said Hiestand. “I started working in the galleries on Good Friday that year and we had big crowds. I fell in love with volunteering right away.”

Over the next 22 years, Fran has logged 10,000 hours of volunteer service working, in nearly every department at the Aquarium, according to the Tennessee Aquarium Communications Manager Thom Benson.

She’s cared for plants and animals, greeted guests and even helped deliver educational outreach programs to area schools. “I like the penguins the best,” said Hiestand. “It’s hard work with a lot of scrubbing, but who cares if you’re scrubbing and you have penguins stomping on your feet.”

“Fran is probably the most dedicated volunteer I’ve ever seen,” said Chris Bowman, the Aquarium’s manager of volunteer services. “She’s fascinating to talk to because she’s lived so much of the Aquarium’s history and knows so much about the animals and exhibits. She’s a walking encyclopedia.”

There are 40 students enrolled in the current volunteer docent class. They will graduate in November with another class beginning in February. It will be be 2037 if any of them serve the Aquarium as long as Hiestand.
Bowman says there’s also a volunteer SCUBA diver recruitment starting in January. But that’s the only area that doesn’t interest Hiestand. “I’ll do anything at the Aquarium I can with my head above water. I don’t dive.”

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