To coincide with Earth Day weekend, Leadership Chattanooga’s 40th annual class made history, spending the day doing what had never been done in program history. 

One giant day of service.  

Some 40 members of the 2023/2024 graduating class split into five groups, each working through the morning at different sites across the region.  

“Service is vital,” said Mike Beckwith, vice president of brokerage for FreightPlus and member of Leadership Chattanooga’s 2023/24 class. “It brings people together, instills a sense of purpose and creates meaningful connections. Service is not just about giving back; it’s about making a difference in the lives of others and contributing to the greater good.” 

For the day of service, Beckwith, his mom and good friend Jen Sliško hiked the one-mile steep climb to the Lower Pot Point boulder field campsite. There, they joined other TN River Gorge Trust volunteers to paint camping platforms and clear the areas around the campsites.  

“Having the unique opportunity to be doing community service, out in nature – my favorite place to be – with some of the people I appreciate most in this world was a moment I’ll always cherish,” he said.  

At Carver Community Center, a second Leadership Chattanooga group joined the local nonprofit Water Ways and students from Chattanooga School for the Arts & Sciences to clean Citico Creek and watershed, removing trash and helping restore the ecosystem and habitat.  

At Lula Lake Trust, volunteers helped re-establish a proper drainage corridor for the beautiful Moonshine Trail network.  

Two groups – one with Lookout Mountain Conservancy, the other at Reflection Riding – worked on trail maintenance. Organizers called it “nature’s therapy. 

“I overhead someone in the group explaining to a child why helping to preserve our community was so important,” recalled Whitney Summers, municipal services manager for Neel-Schaffer. “It was truly a ‘practice what you preach moment.’ I think it is very important that our families see how we lead in our communities and help preserve important areas, no matter how small the act is.” 

In the past, Leadership Chattanooga split into smaller, individual groups working on their own timeline. This year, they all selected their projects, but scheduled them on one singular day of service, spending the morning in service then the afternoon in conversation with nonprofit leaders.  

We wanted to make sure we care for this city where we live and work,” said Toya Moore, Leadership Development Director. “How to keep the Scenic City the Scenic City?” 

“By actively engaging in service, leaders lead by example, inspiring others to follow and fostering a culture of giving and compassion. Service cultivates empathy, humility and a deeper understanding of the diverse needs within a community, all essential qualities for effective leadership,” Beckwith said.  

Summers agreed. 

“It is up to us to make our communities better and long-lasting for generations to come,” Summers said. “If we serve as an example to volunteer and give back, maybe others will, too.” 

Leadership Chattanooga is a 10-month program that invites selected participants into a journey of civic discovery, leadership and community. For more information on Leadership Chattanooga’s upcoming class, visit

To purchase tickets for the May 23 graduation, visit Leadership Chattanooga Class of 2024 Graduation.