Discovering a Passion for Community
Eventually, Gregory made the move to Fort Wayne in 1980 and landed himself a job as managing director of Historic Fort Wayne. It would be his first stint in the nonprofit industry, but certainly not his last. Before making his way to the AIDS Task Force, he would also serve as director of marketing for Arts United of Greater Fort Wayne, and director of development at the Fort Wayne Museum of Art. When asked where his passion for the nonprofit industry comes from, Gregory said, “There’s something about working for a cause that an entire community has deemed important.”
Gregory’s first connection to the AIDS Task Force started in 1987 when he was commissioned by the agency to write an AIDS awareness play. The production would take place at IPFW as part of the citywide AIDS Awareness Week. From there, Gregory began attending the agency’s annual Dinner Dance fundraising benefit. “I’ve been to every Dinner Dance except the first one.” It would be nearly a decade later before he became the director of the AIDS Task Force.
Becoming Executive Director of the AIDS Task Force
In 1998, Gregory was made aware of an open position at the AIDS Task Force. After focusing his nonprofit career on the arts community, he was apprehensive about making the switch to HIV/AIDS. The AIDS Task Force had been struggling to keep the role filled, having three directors come and go in two years. Waiting until the last minute, Gregory finally applied and his proficient work experience made him the best candidate to stabilize the agency’s staff and repair its public image.
Over the next 14 years as executive director, Manifold led the agency and his team through myriad changes, growth and achievements. Among the many highlights is the agency’s move from its small office on Fairfield (Gregory compared it to a “dank dungeon”) to its current location on Oxford Street. Gregory remembers witnessing the staff “brightening up” after the change in scenery.
The move to Oxford Street also allowed the agency to form a designated client pantry. Before then, there was no official program. Clients occasionally received food and household items whenever there were donations. Once they had the space, the agency began purchasing items to keep the pantry stocked and requested and received more in-kind donations from the community.
Also during his tenure as director, the agency celebrated its 25th anniversary. To commemorate the milestone, Gregory took on what he deemed a “personal love project” funded by a grant from the Foellinger Foundation: recording the recollections of the founders, volunteers and witnesses of the AIDS Task Force from its inaugural years, 1985-1987. Gregory himself compiled the stories and wrote the 91-page book to honor the inception of the Task Force. Everyone was happy to be a part of it. “Nobody turned me down,” said Gregory. The book even includes a comprehensive timeline of the agency’s history through the year 2010.
When asked what he loved most about being executive director of the AIDS Task Force, Manifold acknowledged the clients. “Meeting their needs and making people’s lives better was our highest accomplishment.” He also recognized his incredible team. “They were such dedicated people, went beyond what was expected again and again,” he said. “I was in awe of them.”