Category: Chattanooga outreach

Caving Cautiously

By Maggie Weaver

Captain Brandon Powers of Chattanooga Hamilton County Rescue Services pulls out a radio used in the field to communicate with the rescue team. Monday, April 11, 2022. (Photo By Maggie Weaver)

It’s estimated that over 2 million people visit caves annually in the United States. Brandon Powers is one of them, having been an avid caver for over two decades. He has been working with Chattanooga Hamilton County Rescue Services since 2016 and now holds the rank of captain.

“Caving, in general, is a sport that I feel like a lot of people don’t have a tremendous amount of information about, and you can find yourself way over your head real quick,” says Captain Powers.

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Road to Recovery

By Madison Van Horn

Kelli Webber leads The Launch Pad’s weekly Sunday meeting as Denise Dailey listens. Sunday, March 27, 2022 (Photo by Madison Van Horn)

From gardening in prison with Martha Stewart to inspiring women in recovery, Kelli Webber has lived many lives throughout her battle with addiction and substance abuse. Webber has taken her painful past as a former alcoholic and drug user and channeled it into a powerful tool to help others. 

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Sparrow Song

Written By Rachel Jordan

Sydney and Brayden Guerrette practice in their home. For these siblings, the music was more than just a hobby; it was about mental health. Thursday, February 17, 2022. (Photo by Seth Carpenter)

Like many others, Brayden Guerrette and his older sister Sydney have had their fair share of their mental health struggles since they were young. Back in their hometown of Portland, Maine, during a very intimate exchange on their kitchen floor, Brayden Guerrette finally opened up to his parents and older sister about his dealings with depression. 

“We were just sitting there and he was just in tears, and as someone who is watching a family member and someone that they love go through something like that, it’s always very difficult because you don’t know what to do most of the time,” Sydney says. “All you can really do is be there for them continually.”

After this exchange, the Guerrette family took a leap of faith for the sake of their family’s mental health and sold their house, bought an RV and started their journey across the country in hopes of a healthy, fresh start. 

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Battle Buddies

By Madison Van Horn

Eric Dudash standing tall next to Phantom. Eric explained the trials that Warrior Freedom had to go through in order to be here today. Saturday, February 12, 2022. (Photo by McKenna Pegrim)

The heroes that serve in the United States Military face unimaginable challenges every day in service, but for many veterans that is only the beginning of a lifelong mental warfare. 

Eric Dudash is a veteran who served in the special operations command for over 30 years and suffers from PTSD. However, he has discovered an unconventional form of medicine: his service dog, Phantom.

Audio by Eli Rushing
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Faithful Aid

By Seth Carpenter

The Union Gospel Mission through its GRACE Discipleship Program works to help men dealing with life-controlling issues. Program graduate and current volunteer, Dan Johnson, goes into the importance of the program itself, the people who come to Union Gospel Mission for help, how faith intersects with the work done, and why he stays there.


Seth Carpenter is a photojournalist as well as the current Photo Editor of UT Chattanooga’s student-run newspaper, the University Echo. Recently, he told the story of how a nurse and her family have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. He hopes the stories he tells will make a difference in the lives of people around him. You can contact him at Sethcarpenter101@gmail.com

Green Racers

Written By Maggie Weaver

Hamilton County schools race their electric cars in the Chattanooga Green Prix. The race put on by Green Spaces Chattanooga was a part of a STEM learning project for over 40 schools in the Chattanooga area. Saturday, November 20, 2021. Photo by Maggie Weaver.

In 2017 green|spaces Chattanooga started a hands-on program to encourage STEM learning in Hamilton County students through designing and building race cars. The Chattanooga Green Prix, this year held at the Bend in downtown Chattanooga, allowed hundreds of students from 40+ schools to put their full-sized, functioning electric power race cars to the test.

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Chattanooga Creatives Strike Again

Written by: Madison Van Horn

Strike Chattanooga’s founders, Maggie Schut, Marli Geidt, and Carianna Hunter (left to right) celebrate the launch of Issue 02 of Strike Chattanooga. November 20,2021 (Photo By Madison Van Horn)
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The Field Below

Written by Jerrod Niles

Across the greater Chattanooga area lies fertile soil which farmers nurture to cultivate life. Their soil is the vehicle to meet many beyond their own sphere — even the art world.

Local Chattanooga artist Amanda Brazier has been painting solely with pigments pulled from soil for the past 14 years. Holly Martin, owner of Gaining Grounds Grocery saw the potential to connect Brazier’s unique art medium with her mission to create a sustainable grocery alternative for Chattanooga’s food desert. 

As soon as it was proposed to Brazier, she had an immediate and organic idea. “When [Martin] approached me about the idea of a mural connecting all these ideas, I mean it just came to me immediately.” 

Brazier knew she could take the soil from Chattanooga farmers and create a beautiful mural for the grocery store.

The idea was to create a mural that is made of pigments from local sources as well as farms that provide inventory to Gaining Grounds Grocery. Then began the rush to gather soil from Chattanooga farmers, community gardens and other local means.  Brazier and Martin gathered a list of over 10 farms that supply the store with their produce and took to the fields to gather soil.

Jars of Amanda Brazier’s homemade paint sit and settle at her studio. Saturday, September 11, 2021(Photo by Jerrod Niles)

Brazier interviewed the farmers about the history of the lands they work and what connects them to the soil under their fingernails.

“It’s a life blood. Without the soil and beautiful greenery and forage it provides, we wouldn’t be able to do what we do,” explains Mack Haynes of the Ocoee Creamery, one of the many farms Brazier visited.

Creating the paint for the mural was one of the toughest parts of the process. Brazier usually creates her paint to be water based, but needed to change her medium to fit the project. To create a durable and long-lasting mural, she chose to use acrylic paint.

“I’ve learned from this experience and most of what I’ve learned is that making acrylic paint from these soil pigments is tricky. Every dirt is different and requires lots of time to understand how much of each [ingredient] is required.”

To engage the community in this process, the first day of painting began with a community paint day at Gaining Grounds Grocery store. Many members of the local area joined and got the base layers on the mural laid down, but it left Brazierwith plenty of work to finish up in her studio. Luckily, she has two assistants and two bright-eyed sons to lend a hand.

Amanda Brazier creates paint from dirt for her next mural. Saturday, September 11, 2021 (Photo by Jerrod Niles)

With the mural finished, the final piece was revealed at Gaining Grounds Grocery. A reveal party was held at the Saint Andrews church where the grocery is located. Garnished with vegan foods and local dirt experts, the event was lively with new faces and like minded individuals. 

The two-piece mural project hangs currently in the entrance hall of Gaining Grounds Grocery and inside the store itself. Alongside the mural is a key that associates each paint color with the location of the dirt that created that pigment. 

The goal of The Field Below project was to connect the community with the local farmers that supply the grocery with produce. At the unveiling, community members, Brazier and the people who bring Gaining Grounds Grocery’s mission to life mingled and gathered to share a meal. 

This artistic rendition of the connection between community, agriculture, and food reignites the appreciation of the substance we all walk upon.


Jerod Niles is a multimedia producer who specializes in camera operation and post-production. Niles has over 5 years of experience in media production and is always looking towards the future. He is currently working on multiple freelance jobs as well as a media internship for Wanderlinger Brewery. You can find more of his work as well as contact information on his portfolio here: https://www.jerrodniles.com/

Friendly Neighborhood Fred

Written by Madison Van Horn

Fred Holland, A Chattanooga local smiles at the camera, showing off his F-shaped gold front tooth. Wednesday, October 20, 2020 (Photo by Maggie Weaver)

In the heart of Chattanooga, one man strives to create a safe and united community through spreading kindness, one yard at a time.

Fred Holland is a Chattanooga native who is known and loved by many in his neighborhood for always lending a helping hand. On any given day, you can expect to find Fred somewhere on Flynn Street or East 8th Street mowing his neighbors’ lawns free of charge, chatting with community members or volunteering at the Salvation Army. No matter what, Fred always boasts a smile on his face and love in his heart.

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Gaining Grounds Grocery

Video by Haili Jackson

There are baskets of apples, squash, garlic, and zucchini waiting to be picked up as natural light pours into a small and charming room tucked away in the historic St. Andrew’s Center.  

Photo by Annisten Mann

Holly Martin, executive food director of the Chattanooga Sustainable Food Center, opens Gaining Ground Grocery, bringing fresh and localized produce to Highland Park’s table. 

The shop aims to celebrate and share the value in local food producers and entrepreneurs, and engage the community with food that you can feel good about.  

Martin says there are three main points that the Chattanooga Sustainable Food Center focuses on food access, food education, and the engagement of local food. Her vision is to pair these ideals with Gaining Ground and provide better food access to the community that is grown as locally as possible. 

The inside of Gaining Grounds Grocery. (Photo By Annisten Mann)

“I felt like my heart has always been in community nutrition,” she says, “and after I worked for the Chattanooga Area Food Bank for a long time, I started managing the Main Street Farmer’s Market and saw that I really wanted something that increased access to fresh food — especially for low-income families.”

Areas in and around East Chattanooga have been considered ‘food deserts,’ which are places where fresh and healthy foods are inaccessible. Martin, though, holds food deserts to be just a small piece to a bigger picture – a “puzzle piece to poverty.” 

“It’s kind of a ‘buzzy’ word. If you look in an area that is truly defined as a food desert, food is not the only limiting resource,” she says, “usually there is a lack of good medical care, good transportation, and affordable housing as well.” 

A local shopper gets groceries at GGG. (Photo By Annisten Mann)

And, while access to fresh and healthy food is deeply important to Martin, she believes that food goes further than nutrition. 

“To me, food means community,” Martin says, “I think food goes way beyond nourishment to our bodies. It’s family. It’s getting together. I find it fascinating the things that you can do with food and what it means to different people. Food is the ultimate way to share things. That’s what food means to me.” 

As the day ends at Gaining Ground Grocery, she offers freshly ground peanut butter and a word of advice depicted on the official T-shirt for the store, “Keep your friends close and your food closer.” 

Holly Martin speaks on her background with food and how her inspiration became a business. (Audio By Sierra Wolfenbarger)
Poster by Haili Jackson