BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Amazing. She's absolutely amazing.
For the past 15 years, Claire Fontenot has been one of the master gardeners affiliated with the East Baton Rouge Master Gardener Association. Claire gives of her time and talent without compensation.
Milissa Robertson describes Claire as a bundle of energy. "She teaches classes in gardening through OLLI," which Robertson said stands for the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute, under the umbrella of LSU's Continuing Education Program. "My husband and I just went to say hi to her one morning," Robertson continues, "And we were unexpectedly surprised to walk away with irises she had cultivated."
Fontenot teaches OLLI classes every semester – spring, summer, and fall.
"How she has the energy to tend to the gardens several times each week, in addition to sharing her knowledge at classes and workshops, I can't imagine," said Robertson.
Among other things Fontenot does is help maintain the gorgeous flowers and plants found in BREC's Botanic Gardens at Independence Park, adjacent to the main library. She has helped develop daylily, Louisiana Iris, and ginger displays in the garden. She also coordinates the volunteers at the Botanic Gardens, giving more than 30 hours per week of her time.
In addition to teaching OLLI classes and the hours she volunteers at BREC's Botanic Gardens, Fontenot also volunteers at the Burden Museum & Gardens on Essen Ln. She also conducts monthly gardening workshops at branches of the East Baton Rouge Parish Library and she runs by Broadmoor United Methodist Church every weekday morning and makes coffee for the volunteers and staff.
So when Robertson nominated Fontenot for Hand It On, it was a no brainer!
Robertson wanted to add $100 of her own money to the Hand It On cash gift of $300. She suggested we surprise Fontenot during one of her OLLI classes and that we did.
"Well, we're gonna' have to stop," Fontenot said to her class as Robertson barged in during her lecture one Thursday morning. "I'm not sure what she's up to."
"Thanks to Channel 9, this is to thank you for your generosity and the time you have given to this city," Robertson said as she handed a single $100 bill to Fontenot, then another one.
"This one is to thank you for your generosity with the knowledge, your talents, your books, your plants, everything that you give." And the bills continued.
"This is to thank you for your humility because you are the most humble person – never calling attention to yourself, never bragging, never giving yourself half the credit you deserve," said Robertson.
"And this one is from me, because I love you and you've been so kind to me," said Robertson.
The classroom erupted with applause.
"Thank you Milissa," were the only three words Fontenot was able to utter at that moment.
Oh, by the way, did we mention Claire Fontenot is 81-years-young? Amazing. She's absolutely amazing.
To nominate someone for Hand It On, send an e-mail to HandItOn@wafb.com.