Director of Communications, McCall Vrydaghs, interviews Keep Tennessee Beautiful Executive Director, Missy Marshall, about the amazing work happening across the state.

STAMFORD, Conn. (Sept. 13, 2023) – Keep America Beautiful® is proud to announce our next Affiliate of the Month. In this KAB initiative, we feature the great work being done in our network of 700 certified affiliates. Our Affiliate of the Month for September 2023 is Keep Tennessee Beautiful (KTnB).

Keep Tennessee Beautiful is being recognized for the Innovation Award they received from KAB in 2021. The Keep America Beautiful® Innovation Award salutes affiliates that have created innovative partnerships and programs to further the mission of Keep America Beautiful®.

Q&A with Keep Tennessee Beautiful
Executive Director Missy Marshall:

How long have you been involved with Keep Tennessee Beautiful and what role(s) have you held?

Missy: I’ve had the honor and pleasure of serving as the Executive Director for the past ten years. July 1st was my ten-year anniversary. It’s been the honor of my professional career.

Prior to coming here, I served for 22 years in state government service. Being able to take the experience from various departments and bring it to a state-wide organization that helps inspire people to love their communities, it’s the best job, and the best mission I’ve ever served.

When did your passion for the environment and environmental stewardship begin?

Missy: It’s been in my bones since I was just old enough to walk and understand. I grew up in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, spending time outdoors on the lake, in the river, hiking, and just loving to be outside and surrounded by natural beauty. It’s just a part of who I am. I was picking up trash before I was ever a director.

One day my cousin called and asked what I was doing, and if I wanted to go TRASHERCISE,  and my response was, “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard.” She explained that it involved going for a walk while picking up trash as a form of exercise.

So, I would participate in community cleanups, before I even knew what Keep Tennessee Beautiful was, out of the love of wanting the outdoors to be clean and green.

Warm-up is part of Trashercising in Kingsport, TN.

You received a Keep America Beautiful Innovation award in 2021. Tell us about this project.

Missy: During the COVID pandemic, we were all locked up in our homes. The only places we were allowed to go were outdoors and to the stores. And, when you went to the stores you started to see, whether on the roadways or in the parking lot, some gloves, masks, hand sanitizer bottles. The very things we were using to protect ourselves were winding up in our environment.  So, my team and I worked with the partnerships that we have with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) and the Department of Environment and Conservation (TDEC) to develop messaging on how to properly dispose of these items.

I remembered how I really enjoyed TRASHERCISE because you feel like you’re doing something healthy for yourself and doing something healthy for the environment at the same time. Our little tagline is, “Get Fit and Give Back.” 

TRASHERCISE is actually intellectual property owned by Leipers Fork Community Foundation. So, I called up Aubrey Preston, President and Director, and told him every year we do a kick-off event for the Great American Cleanup in March, and the Governor proclaims it to be Keep Tennessee Beautiful Month. In 2021, I wanted the theme to be TRASHERCISE across Tennessee. So, I asked for permission to use the brand and was granted permission from the Department of Transportation for funding to roll out TRASHERCISE across Tennessee with the goal of TRASHERCISING in all 95 counties. 

TRASHERSICE is a verb, it’s an action. We challenge people to make it a way of life. If you’re a walker and you love being outdoors, we challenge you to take your gloves or a grabber and a bag and do something healthy for you and the environment.

University of Memphis cleanup event
Keep TN Beautiful River Cleanup

What are some other accomplishments you and your staff are proud of?

Missy: This month we are officially celebrating 40 years of keeping Tennessee beautiful. We are going to be in Chattanooga, Tennessee September 27th and 28th to honor the past, celebrate the progress, and build on the future of Keep Tennessee Beautiful.

I am honored to be the third director of Keep Tennessee Beautiful. Ms. Edith Heller, our first director, dedicated 28 years to this organization. Mora Hayes, our second director, was a catalyst for change. I have been blessed to work alongside some truly exceptional leaders, both within this organization and throughout Tennessee, including some of the individuals who recognized the vision of creating a state affiliate, as well as the Department of Transportation, which provides steadfast support for the outstanding work of all our affiliates and volunteers.  

During the conference, we’ll have different categories of awards. One of the awards, the Ms. Edith Heller Award, will go to a gentleman named Bucky Edmondson, who worked with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) Public Lands and Waters. Because of that partnership with TVA, we were able to create Keep the Tennessee River Beautiful which is our first nationally certified Keep America Beautiful affiliate that focuses solely on the River.  

About Keep Tennessee Beautiful:

Keep Tennessee Beautiful is the state-level affiliate of Keep America Beautiful and serves as a state resource for litter prevention, community greening, and recycling & waste reduction education. Keep Tennessee Beautiful is a grant-funded organization sponsored by the Tennessee Department of Transportation as a community engagement program at The University of Memphis Center for Regional Economic Enrichment. 

About Keep America Beautiful®:

Keep America Beautiful®, the nation’s leading community improvement nonprofit organization, inspires and educates people to take action every day to improve and beautify their community environment. Established in 1953, Keep America Beautiful® strives to End Littering, Improve Recycling, and Beautify America’s Communities. We believe everyone has a right to live in a clean, green, and beautiful community, and shares a responsibility to contribute to that vision. The organization is driven by the work and passion of 700 Keep America Beautiful® affiliates, millions of volunteers, and the collaborative support of corporate partners, social and civic service organizations, academia, municipalities, elected officials, and individuals. Join us on FacebookInstagramTwitterLinkedin, and YouTubeDonate and take action at


McCall Vrydaghs

Keep America Beautiful®

Published by McCall Vrydaghs
September 14, 2023

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