Fran Hiestand started volunteering at the Tennessee Aquarium in April of 1993. Over the years, she has accumulated more than 9,150 hours of service and continues donating her time at the Aquarium four or more days a week across five separate departments.
Ms. Hiestand admits that she wasn’t completely sold when she first heard the chatter around town about building a freshwater aquarium. Nonetheless, her family purchased a membership when the Tennessee Aquarium was completed in 1992 and she says that her attitude changed immediately. “I saw that a freshwater aquarium was fascinating and fell in love with the entire experience,” she said. “I was amazed and learned something new each time we visited.”
She often found herself seeking more than what she had discovered on each trip, which eventually inspired her to take the aquarium’s docent class. Fran began volunteering once she had completed the in-depth training sessions. “The more I learned, the more excited I became and I wanted to share this knowledge with others,” she said. Then, after learning the ropes as a docent, she became curious about the plants at the aquarium. “Before I knew it, I moved into volunteering in the horticulture department.”
That same curiosity later led her to begin assisting aquarium staff with seahorses and then to helping with the housekeeping duties inside the penguin exhibit, her favorite task. “I don’t complain about scrubbing when I have a penguin on my foot!” she said.
Ms. Hiestand prides herself on having recruited many other volunteers through the years. She always tells them, “You learn so much. I never go home at the end of the day without learning something new. And I come here a lot.”
This week is National Volunteer Week and the Tennessee Aquarium is proud of all the exceptional volunteers like Ms. Hiestand who have helped make the aquarium the top-rated Aquarium in the nation for overall guest satisfaction.
Aquarium volunteers welcome and educate guests, care for plants and animals, assist in offices or volunteer behind the acrylic walls as SCUBA divers. In 2013, more than 700 volunteers gave more than 58,000 hours of service. Since 1992, it is estimated that volunteers have contributed more than 850,000 hours at the aquarium.
“Our volunteers are a big part of what makes the Aquarium so special. They are a very passionate group of people who are dedicated to giving visitors the best experience possible,” said volunteer manager Chris Bowman.
Anyone interested in joining the Aquarium’s volunteer team can learn more by going to: http://www.tnaqua.org/GetInvolved.