Educator-turned volunteer organizer and charitable fundraiser Vera Martin is adding a new honor to past recognitions with a Golden Deeds award.
The Golden Deeds, now in its 72nd year, is an award bestowed annually to a local philanthropist by the Inter-Civic Council and The Advocate.
The council made the decision Tuesday to honor Martin.
Martin is perhaps best known as the founding organizer of the Broadmoor High School annual Arts and Crafts Fair, which began in 1973. She served as the director of the fair for more than 30 years and along the way it has become one of the largest craft shows in Louisiana.
At the time, Martin was a guidance counselor at the high school. She recalled attending another fair and thought why not have one at the high school.
She approached her principal and asked when would be a good time.
“He said, ‘Between football and basketball,’ ” she recalled him saying. “It turns out November is a perfect time to have a fair.”
A veteran educator, Martin spent 36 years in education first as a high school home economics teacher, and later as a guidance counselor.
A native of Mora, a small town west of Alexandria, Martin graduated from Northwestern State University in Natchitoches.
After school, she moved first to Opelousas for a few years, before moving to Baton Rouge when her husband, now deceased, was transferred to the Capital City.
Her interest in arts and crafts began when she was looking for things to do with her home economics classes.
Her walls at home are filled with arts and crafts items she’s collected through the years.
“Everything in my home is by someone I know personally,” she said with pride.
Her success with the Broadmoor High fair didn’t go unnoticed.
She remembers being approached by the American Red Cross.
She soon was holding arts-and-crafts-themed fundraisers for that organization at the now closed Bon Marché mall.
“My claim to fame is raising money for others,” she said. “I never ask for myself.”
She’s served on the board and organized fundraising garage sales for Cajun Clickers, which helps individuals learn and use technology.
She’s raised money for years for the choir at Parkview Baptist Church, her church, and conducted fundraising craft shows for the YMCA/Jewish Community Center in New Orleans and Luling Elementary School in St. Charles Parish, among others.
Her work with Friendship Force of Baton Rouge has allowed her to have an impact around the world, even to the mountains of Costa Rica.
The international organization fosters friendships worldwide, a cause for which she’s raised money and supplies.
Her most recent work is with Esther House, where women released from prison can get a new start on life, and with Brave Heart-Children In Need Inc., an organization that assists abused and neglected children, giving out thousands of Christmas gift bags each year.
In the case of Brave Heart, a former student persuaded her to take on a greater role than she planned.
She’s often, though, the one firmly coaxing people to help more than they intended. It’s not always that hard.
“Lots of time, they say, ‘I’m retired and I’m bored,’ and I say, ‘I have a job you’ll love,’ ” she said.
She credits her mother for her own giving nature. It comes naturally to her.
“If you’re fortunate enough to have things, you should give. That’s why I give,” she said. “It makes you feel good. You get a lot from helping others.”
Martin will be honored in a banquet at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 12 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel, 4728 Constitution Ave.
To purchase tickets, call Inter-Civic Council treasurer Liz Pav at (225) 343-8874. Tickets will be $50 each.