If you live in Dayton, chances are you already know Lisa Grigsby.
She’s a mover and shaker, a doer, an influencer, a volunteer. She’s someone who does her job, not for a monetary gain, but just to have fun and to see her Dayton neighbors do the same.
Grigsby recently transitioned from her role as special events director for AIDS Resource Center and now is juggling two big jobs within the Dayton community. She is the new executive director of FilmDayton and also works part time for Dayton Most Metro.
Grigsby likes to have fun, and approaches everything she does with the mindset of "making fun and fans."
Meet Lisa Grigsby, this week's Daytonian of the Week:
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What do you do in Dayton?
LG: That’s a really, really good question. I would say I am probably first and foremost a cheerleader, whether that be for people, for businesses, for the region, for things that happen in Dayton. Sometimes I have friends that kid around with me and say ‘well, since when did you get paid to become the publicist for the region?’ When I moved here 24 years ago, I was dreading it and I thought it was awful. I did not want to stay because I had a very low opinion about Dayton. I didn’t know much about it. A lot of people I talked to didn’t have very great things to say about it. After I ended up deciding that I was going to stay here, I got involved with Leadership Dayton, started exploring around and got involved with some nonprofits and realized that Dayton is an amazing city with so many different things to offer — whether it’s culturally or the music and food that we have for the city. We have some chefs here that are just over the top. We’re proud of Dayton. I was one of those people who would see something wrong and my mom would always say, "Don’t complain about it — find a way to make it better." That is now the approach that I have taken to so many things within the Dayton community and in life. If I’ve gone to an event and I think that it could have been better, I try to join the committee and sit down with them and offer suggestions. If ever I have seen something that needs more attention to it, I just try to create it. I like to look outside of the box. I am not a very traditional person. I am not very patient either. I want things done, and I want them done now. I’ve learned that you just have to gather a bunch of people and get them excited about whatever it is that they are working on. I’ve learned that in groups, anything is possible. That is my approach to what I do in Dayton.
What’s the best thing about working with nonprofit organizations and volunteer organizations?
LG: I’ve been involved with a lot of nonprofits, and I think that there are a couple of things that happen. People tend to get stuck on "well, we’ve got to make money; we’ve got to make money." However I take that approach of, "No, you’ve got to make fun and fans!" If you have an event that is fun and that people will love, people will attend, support it and let it evolve. I think there are a lot of organizations that tend to get stuck in the status-quo and fulfilling the budget. But, it is just in my nature to say, "Let’s create something new, let’s try something different." I think about the Knockout event that we did with the AIDS Resource Center a few years ago — the very first Knockout. I wanted to do it at Memorial Hall because it was a beautiful building and it was just sitting there practically abandoned. The whole idea with Knockout was to do something cool at Memorial Hall. The first time we did, we had a few thousand people who had never been inside or they hadn’t been inside for years. I think creating events that can breathe new life into an old building — that’s what I love to do — find places that people haven’t been to and do something different and make it cool again.
Do you have a favorite job?
LG: It’s usually my next one. I think I am in a really good place right now with Dayton because there’s never been a situation that didn’t have tons of potential or that we were not able to tap into its potential. In the past, we just haven’t been able to afford the right staff for a particular event. So, when I took this job [at FilmDayton], I thought well we can’t hire somebody for what we need and what we can afford to pay them. So then I said, "Well, why don’t I take it on?" Then I have the challenge to raise the money, create a higher profile for it and guide the organization to the level it needs to be. This is a huge economic driver for the Dayton region by bringing films to town and working to make the rest of the country realize what great assets we have here in the region that can make filming movies, right here in Dayton, a huge success.
Another one of my favorite jobs is Dayton Brew Tours. We take a party bus of folks to tour and taste at the local breweries, showing off these local entrepreneurs, but my favorite part is when I have a bus full of folks and I get to tell them about the history of beer in our region, starting back with Newcom’s Tavern in 1809 all the way up to what’s happening now, and then I steer that into local eateries, upcoming events in town and plugging fundraisers for nonprofits many have never heard of.
What do you love about life in Dayton?
LG: I like that there are a variety of things that can be done — whether you want to be in the outdoors and go out and climb through Yellow Springs or ride the river, or if you want to do something cultural — there are just a ton of things to do here. You can be highbrow, you can go to a dive bar, you can be a foodie. There is just so much that you can do here. For those people who say that there is not, they have really made no effort to get off their couch.
What do you wish more people knew about Dayton?
LG: I wish more people were proud of the city we live in and the opportunities and options that we have. I have met a number of folks who are always going to be apologizing and saying, ‘Oh, well I am still in Dayton for a while, but I am going to get out.’ But, it’s an amazing town, and I think the coolest thing about it is that if you can’t find anything right here in Dayton, we are an hour’s drive away from Indiana or Columbus or Cincinnati. You can drive up to Chicago for a bit, have an amazing weekend and be back in town just in time for work on Monday. We are right in the middle of everything. We have amazing opportunities here, and if there is something that you can’t find here. For instance, I am a huge Washington Redskins football fan. For the cost of living in Dayton, I can afford to have Redskins season tickets, run up to the game, see the games, fly home for cheaper than when I lived in DC, when I had to drive back and forth to the games. So, what we don’t have here, it’s easy to attain with just a simple flight in and out of the Dayton Airport. That’s a huge thing, and I don’t think people appreciate that sometimes. It’s small-town life with big-city options.
What is your favorite Dayton food?
LG: My favorite Dayton food is almost impossible to answer. It depends on the moment.
What is your favorite Dayton recreational activity?
LG: My favorite activities include going to the amazing number of beer and wine food tastings that we have in town. Once again it goes back to the options — going to one of the free festivals, going up to Reggae Fest or Oktoberfest. So my favorite activity is festival hopping.
What is a fun fact about yourself?
LG: My favorite fun fact is that I went to school on a football scholarship, but a lot of people know that about me because I am an open book. I was a trainer.
But, another fun fact is that I danced in the Nutcracker at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.