Greg Stowers serves as program director for Leadership Indianapolis, where he oversees programs and events with aims of cultivating the next generation of leaders in the city. In his previous role, he served as special assistant to Mayor Joe Hogsett handling a variety of special projects on behalf of citizens around Indianapolis. He also worked on the John Gregg for Governor Campaign as Special Assistant, gaining invaluable experience and developing relationships with a wide variety of people around the state of Indiana.
He is also the executive director for Hashtag Lunchbag Indy, an initiative aimed at combating hunger among the less fortunate. This national grassroots idea has spread around Indianapolis with partnerships with major corporations and local community groups. The model of “Pop-Up Philanthropy” works twofold, as the group is able to help those in need while empowering volunteers with a sense of engagement and purpose.
Born in Indianapolis, Greg has a vested interest in public service and community engagement. He currently serves on the board of directors for ProAct and League of Ivy: A Young Professionals Council (Ivy Tech Young Professionals Board). He also serves as a facilitator for the Center for Leadership Development, working with providing teenagers with life skills training. Greg is a graduate of Indiana State University with a B.S. in political science and government. While a student, his work as a member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity Inc. and the Student Government Association bolstered his commitment to serve.
How long have you lived in Indy?
I’m a lifelong Indy resident. I grew up on the southern tip of Washington Township (39th and Kessler) where if you were lucky you could have caught a glimpse of me on a BMX bike around the corner next to the Major Taylor Velodrome. I spent the majority of my time on the Northside, where I graduated from North Central High School; an experience that provided me with a myriad of different ideas and unique perspectives. Now I reside in the cultural hub of Castleton on the Northeastside where Ale Emporium reigns supreme as the best place for wings (Hermanaki!) in Indy.
Why have you focused on using your skills in the nonprofit sector?
I stopped focusing on what I wanted to be and began focusing on what I wanted to do. Serving others is a passion for many of us and I’ve taken it a step further, making it a bit more intentional. On a daily basis I’m inspired by not only my family and friends, but people (young and more “seasoned”) who are working to make Indy better.
While I recognize the - how shall we say “opportunities for improvement” - we have as a city, I’d rather play my part in helping make the necessary changes, as opposed to sitting on the sideline. There are some truly amazing things happening here and nonprofits play a vital role. Our work at Leadership Indianapolis aims at cultivating the next generation of leaders and it’s truly an honor to serve as Program Director. Whether I’m connecting like-minded individuals or serving as the staff cartographer, our work gives a sense of purpose as leadership – good leadership – is in high demand.
How did you find your current position?
As much as I can say the job found me, it was a result of hard work and relationship building. I met our current CEO Christina Hale while at a fundraiser in the early part of 2016. She was my state representative at the time, but I didn’t know her that well.
As a staffer at a fundraiser, my focus was normally on two things: 1) making sure my candidate, John Gregg, had what he needed and 2) making sure I found where the food was located so I could smash while he spoke to the group. As we were wrapping up Christina walked up to me and said (paraphrasing): “Young man (Ha! I was 29 at the time, so not old, but definitely not that young anymore) this is a great job you have now, but we’re going to need you to step into a leadership role eventually.” I thanked her for the kind words, but she didn’t flinch – she was dead serious.
Fast forward a year later (and one really tough night in November) she reached out and asked me to join her staff.
What would you say to another young professional considering a nonprofit job?
Do your research and make sure you’re in a space where you can learn and grow. I spent some time in the Mayor’s office before Leadership Indianapolis and although every day was different, it was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up. I had built up a great rapport with the staff and learned a great deal from Mayor Hogsett, but having learned from him, I knew that new challenges existed and I was excited to get started.
There’s a risk involved, but is that not true for everything? There will be long nights of planning and meetings for other meetings at times, but not too many people get the chance to work on something they have a passion for – so yeah, do it.
If you could learn a brand new skill, what would it be?
No joke, I’m currently thinking through a DJ set for this rookie DJ competition hosted by Deckademics. Music in general, but Hip-Hop especially, has played a huge role in my life dating back to my mother catching me going line-for-line with Snoop Dogg on “Nuthin but a G Thang” back in ’93! (Memorable because there were words no five-year-old should have been using.) We always had music in the house and I’ve got audible memories of memorable movie soundtracks like, Dead Presidents and Waiting to Exhale being in heavy rotation.
I spent some time writing about Hip-Hop culture for various websites as well, so adding the DJ skill to the repertoire would be a pretty solid next step. As Nick Saligoe (DJ Metrognome) says, “It’s like playing Tetris with music.” I never realized how much goes into playing songs and hoping to find some time to sign up for classes at Deckademics DJ School.
If you were an inanimate object, what would you be and why?
Yo, is this a first date? I guess I’ll go with some sort of black beaded bracelet – you know, the one’s people wear around their wrists. Not a simple rubber band, although I did have a phase when people would ask why I was wearing it, I’d sharply reply, “it represents the struggle” (That phase was also notable for baggie white T-shirts, baggy jeans and the rock-lean-snap era of Hip-Hop). I wear a few bracelets on my wrists and they each have an origin story of some sort. There with my wherever I go and serve as a reminder of some incredibly specific moments in my life. Not necessarily a daily reflection piece, but one I revisit from time-to-time.
What do you hope to accomplish that you haven’t yet?
This question comes up often, but I think I’ve got a solid answer. I want to put myself in a position to be able to hand out business cards with my name followed by the title ‘Philanthropist.’ I’ve been running with the phrase, “Be Forever Unfinished” for a few months now, as a sign of the work still left to do. I’m just a work in progress with various goals, hopes and dreams; now it’s just more focused, more intentional than it’s ever been.
Share a little-known treasure of Indianapolis with us.
Coaches on Take That Tuesdays. As stated above, Hip-Hop plays a huge role in my life and this space gives me the opportunity to hear some great DJs spin the records I grew up on. You’ll get a chance to hear a plethora from the golden era of Hip-Hop with some new stuff mixed in. Be sure to get there early, as the place can fill up quickly.
Most important question: You’re planning your first dinner party of 2018! But – plot twist – you can invite any three individuals, living or dead. For an interesting evening, who would be on your guest list? (And for brownie points, what’s on your menu?)
This is definitely a first date.
Julia Carson showed all people, not only people that looked like me, that it was possible. I never got the chance to know her, but have heard amazing stories about her work and her ability to organize. Politics and government are important, but her ability to serve others remains an incredibly endearing memory for me. She paved the way for so many people and I’m honored to know and appreciate the work of Congressman Andre Carson. He’s a strong voice for the citizens of Indianapolis and has done a great job of carrying on the tradition of his grandmother; he also calls me G-Money whenever we see each other and I just think that’s dope.
He’s a genius. His comedy tugs at not only the bellows of one’s stomach, but the depths of one’s thoughts as well. To think of him as simply some funny guy would be a mistake. He pushes comedy to the edge and has no problem going over it at times to prove his point.
I grew up wearing his clothes and in an indirect way seeing his impact on the culture of young people. I never knew how much he influenced until I read his book "Unlabel: Selling You Without Selling Out". From graffiti drawings in college to the boardroom, he’s got an inspiring story.
And to eat: Let’s scrap dinner and do lunch at Riverside Park on any Saturday in July. We’ll probably get offered a few plates from families throwing barbecues, but I’ll head over to Williamson’s Fish Market to grab food for our group.
Want to support Greg's work?
Make sure to check the Hashtag Lunchbag Indy Facebook Group for updates about upcoming events. They feed the less fortunate and provide resources for local shelters once a month on Saturdays. They’ve partnered with various groups around Central Indiana and are excited about their ability to help those in need, but also to empower volunteers to become more active in their community.