Hello! We’re Ally & Amanda— your go-to blogging duo for all things Knoxville business. Every month, we brunch with a local boss who’s killin’ it in our community. They share their unique insight with us, and we share it with whoever wants to know! Whether you’re looking for some mid-week motivation or just a quick, insightful read, we’ve got the tales of trials and triumphs you’re looking for.
To welcome the start of the fall season, we met up with Keep Knoxville Beautiful Executive Director, Alanna McKissack, for some coffee and conversation at Pete’s Coffee Shop. After all, what better way to celebrate the leaves changing and temperature dropping (any day now, hopefully) than by hearing from a local advocate for environmental health?
For those who may not know, KKB is an affiliate of the nonprofit organization, Keep America Beautiful, and is dedicated to keeping Knoxville “clean, green, and beautiful.” In a city with almost 200,000 residents, that’s no easy task! But thanks to Alanna, the rest of the KKB crew, and the organization’s generous volunteers, Knoxville remains beautiful. Find out how in this edition of Brunch with Bosses!
SPOILER: Looking for something to do this weekend? Keep reading for details on this year’s Rocky Top Pickin’ Party, hosted by Keep Knoxville Beautiful on Friday, September 28th from 6-10p!
What are some of the responsibilities of an Executive Director?
“There’s actually three of us now because there’s so much to do,” Alanna tells us. “I handle more of the business side of things, doing administrative work, grant writing, marketing, and fundraising, whereas the other two handle the programming and AmeriCorps relations. We also all attend a lot of the events, such as community clean-ups, school speaking events, and so on. There’s always something going on so we stay pretty busy.”
What are some key traits a person needs to have to succeed in this position?
“In my opinion, the most important trait is organization. When you wear a lot of different hats, you have to be able to accomplish a lot at once. Like, right now, I’m working on a fundraiser, but I’m also working on a beautification project and a grant. You have to be able to switch back and forth between tasks while still managing the projects efficiently.”
What’s it like working for a nonprofit organization?
“It’s humbling. You need to remember that what you’re doing is for the good of the community, not necessarily for yourself. You can see the affect you have on the community instantly, so it feels very rewarding. It’s brought me a lot of personal growth, along with the opportunity to grow within an organization. I think it’s amazing.”
Of all the nonprofits in the area, what brought you to KKB?
“This cause is something that’s always been close to my heart. So, I started as an AmeriCorps member right out of college, and I just loved how involved I was able to get with the people and overall Knoxville community through KKB. I started by participating in clean-ups and educating people at public events, and then around January I was given the opportunity to serve as an Executive Director and I jumped at it.”
Tell us some of the ways KKB impacts the local community.
“Our three main areas of impact are clean, green, and beautiful. For the clean aspect, we work with almost 2,000 volunteers every year to pick up about 60,000 pounds of litter surrounding roads, freeways, parks, creeks, rivers… you name it, we’ve probably cleaned it. For the green aspect, we promote recycling through education. We work closely with the City of Knoxville and Knox County to educate residents on proper recycling and the resources that are available to them. We also have school programs in which we educate students on topics like this in fun, creative ways. For the beautiful aspect, we do things like planting trees and flowers, removing graffiti, and painting murals. We’ve done three murals so far— there’s two in the Old City and one downtown near Elkmont Exchange. It’s a newer program of ours, but we plan to grow it.”
KKB holds two main fundraising events every year. Can you tell us a little bit about those?
“The longest-running fundraiser is our annual springtime Orchids Beautification Awards. We celebrate the architecture, outdoor spaces and public art of Knoxville and the people who create these spaces at this event. A panel of judges will review what each property brings to the community— not just in terms of appearance, but also growth and development. The other annual fundraising event is our Fall Rocky Top Pickin’ Party. This is our 4th year hosting it. The event has live music, but we also like to encourage attendees to bring their own instruments and join in.” That event is coming up this weekend, right? Where is it being held this year and how can people get tickets? “Yeah, so it’s on September 28th from 6-10p at the Mabry-Hazen House. It’s located off Dandridge Avenue in East Knoxville. Tickets are on sale for $5 on our website, or $10 at the door. There will be beer, cocktails, and a couple of food trucks on site so it’s going to be a really fun event!”
Why do you feel it’s important for people to get involved with their local community?
“It gives you a sense of pride. Doing any kind of volunteer work, or even just helping out your neighbor, gives you that extra connection to your community and helps you grow as a person. People underestimate just how impactful giving back can be on others and on themselves. It’s a great feeling.”
What’s something you would suggest that someone visiting Knoxville do?
“Just take in the beauty of the city. There’s so much around every corner. Put down your phones and just enjoy the surroundings. From the mountains to the rivers and parks, there’s so much to do here. It’s such a unique place that’s definitely made for outdoor enthusiasts.”