Toledo native honored as Iowan of the Week

Anne Bacon, Chief Executive Officer for IMPACT Community Action Partnership in Des Moines was recently named Iowan of the Week by Congresswoman Cindy Axne's office for her work in leading the efforts at IMPACT that provided emergency rental assistance to over 6,500 households in need during 2021. Bacon is a 1982 graduate of South Tama County and lives with her husband Brian (an 83' STC alum) in Ankeny. -- Contributed photo

For the first week of the new year, Toledo native Anne Bacon was recognized by Congresswoman Cindy Axne’s office as the Iowan of the Week.

Bacon has spent her career working in human and social services and for the past several years has served as the Chief Executive Officer for IMPACT Community Action Partnership, a Des Moines-based agency serving five counties in Central Iowa.

Bacon and her staff at IMPACT were recognized for their efforts throughout the pandemic to help families facing eviction and homelessness to be able to remain in their homes.

In 2020 the organization helped 1,000 families with direct housing assisting with funds from the federal CARES Act.

This year through a partnership with the City of Des Moines and Polk County, IMPACT has served more than 6,500 households with rental assistance through funding from the Emergency Rental Assistance Program. The number includes close to 7,000 children that were able to remain in their homes thanks to the efforts of Bacon and her dedicated team.

The coordinated efforts with the city and county governments earned additional recognition from the Department of the Treasury as one of six High Performing programs in the nation offering the Emergency Rental Assistance funds.

The Iowan of the Week Award is a program initiated by Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) in 2020 recognizing Iowans for their contributions to their communities, helping their neighbors and making Iowa better. A letter with each week’s recipient is submitted by Axne to be a part of the official Congressional Record.

A history of helping

Bacon grew up in Toledo and was a 1982 graduate of South Tama. Her mother Rita Ferneau worked as a social worker at the Iowa Juvenile Home in Toledo.

“Being in the helping profession was part of our family,” Bacon said.

Though the early exposure to the field likely laid the foundation for Bacon’s career, she said the catalyst that moved her into action was largely her own experience navigating the health and human services as a young single mother.

“I needed help when I was a single mom in California and I had a very negative experience trying to get the help I needed,” Bacon said. “I realized through that experience that my calling was to ensure that people could get the assistance they need and still be treated with respect and dignity.”

Bacon returned to Iowa after living a few years in California and would go on to earn a degree in Social Work from the University of Iowa and later a Masters in Public Administration from Drake University.

As a health and human services professional Bacon has worked for Mid-Iowa Community Action (MICA), a sister agency for IMPACT in the Marshall and Tama County areas; Bidwell Riverside Center in Des Moines and at IMPACT Community Action since 2015.

Looking back through a career serving the public and advocating for those underserved and underrepresented, Bacon has little trouble finding motivation to continue in what has become her life’s work over the past two decades.

“I see so many hardworking people who do everything that they’re expected to do and follow all the rules and still end up not being able to meet their basic needs and not be able to achieve the proverbial American dream,” Bacon said. “That continued inequity is what gets me out of bed every day. I’m a firm believer that all work is good work, and that people always willing to work should be able to meet their basic needs in doing so.”

Bacon said she’s observed a number of misconceptions within the general public related to poverty and the populations she and her organization serve.

“We do not see very many people that fit the stereotype of people who don’t want to work or people who aren’t willing to do what they have to do,” Bacon said. “Instead, we see people who are willing to work two and three jobs and do all kinds of things to try to make it and they still can’t meet their needs.”

Her challenge to law makers and those in positions of influence and power is to remove the ideals of poverty as a broad moral problem and instead take a clear-eyed approach toward ensuring more jobs pay a modern living wage or toward investment in a robust safety net system that is helpful and not harmful to people.

Though Bacon and the IMPACT organization are not linked to Tama County, the areas IMPACT Community Action serves in Jasper, Boone and Marion counties gives them a direct connection to rural Iowa and the challenges and issues facing the communities within.

In the next year Bacon said she anticipates the economic pain felt by individuals and families living in and around poverty to only increase.

“Anyone who worked in the service industry in any fashion is still economically devastated by the pandemic,” Bacon said. “And almost all of the supports that were put into place over the last year and a half are fading. But the economic need has not and so I am concerned about the coming year for the families who are below 200 percent of the poverty guidelines because there’s no more pandemic unemployment insurance, we’re running out of rental assistance and paid COVID sick leave.”

Headed into 2022 IMPACT Community Action will continue on with their assistance programs that include rental and housing assistance, food assistance and utility assistance.

Bacon currently lives in Ankeny with her husband Brian who is also a South Tama alum (Class of 83′). She is the mother of three daughters and has one grandson.

Both her and Brian have maintained connection through family and friends to Tama-Toledo though they have lived out of the area for some time.