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Illinois People’s Action (IPA) is a progressive, multi-issue faith and community organization in downstate Illinois. Our mission is to empower everyday people to become true partners in the decision-making process on justice issues affecting their communities, state and ultimately the nation as a whole. We organize to address the causes of injustice and not just its symptoms.  


We were founded as an institutional-membership organization in 1996 as the Central Illinois Organizing Project. In 2010, we changed our name to Illinois People’s Action and opened membership to individuals.  We have members as far north as Rockford and as far south as Johnson County.  You do not have to be a religious person to get involved. Our headquarters is in Bloomington, IL.


We are founding members of Fair Economy Illinois which is a statewide coalition formed to pass progressive legislation in the state, Illinois Green New Deal coalition, the Illinois Coalition Against Fracking, and the Keeping Families Together Coalition. Our national organizing network is People’s Action Institute.



Don Carlson

Executive Director. Founding staff IPA 1996 - present

Don Carlson has over 43 years of community organizing experience, including founding staff and executive director of IPA (1996- present), Philadelphia (Regional Council Neighborhood Organizations, 1989-1996) and Iowa (Des Moines CCI; Director 1985-1989, Staff Organizer 1980-1985). Responsibilities include oversight of all IPA staff and organizing campaigns, leadership development, and organizational development and fundraising. In this capacity, he provides leadership training to IPA member congregations and affiliates and organizing and grant fundraising technical assistance to IPA member groups and issue coalition groups across central Illinois. He has served on the Board of Directors for our national affiliate, People’s Action Institute.


Dawn Dannenbring

Lead Organizer January 2008 – present

Dawn Dannenbring is the lead organizer on IPA’s environmental justice campaigns. She was a leader in IPA for 12 years before becoming staff in 2008. Working with grassroots and faith leaders, she coordinates IPA’s work in the Illinois Clean Jobs Coalition (state climate table) to pass racially just clean energy legislation. She staffed IPA’s campaign that helped pass the Future Energy Jobs Act in 2016, and IPA’s anti-fracking campaign that spearheaded 36,000 citizen comments and resulted in a 400+ day de facto moratorium on fracking. Dawn started her work with IPA organizing on foreclosures, which predominantly impacted People of Color and seniors at disproportionate rates. She has staffed IPA meetings with former Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, former Secretary of the Treasury, Tim Geithner, and previous CFPB acting chair, Elizabeth Warren in Washington, DC.

Board of Directors


Rev. Tony Pierce


Reverend Pierce is an African American national leader in spearheading faith-based community economic development benefitting low-income and minority neighborhoods. In 2010 as part of IPA he met with the Federal Reserve Board, the White House and Bank of America executives regarding the strategy for achieving this. IPA’s Board President, Rev. Pierce is the co-pastor of Heaven’s View Christian Fellowship, an IPA multi-racial, inner-city congregation. In 2017, he testified at federal EPA hearings on the Clean Power Plan. In 2020, he became part of the negotiating team on CEJA at the state level, attending meetings with the Governor’s staff. He is a recipient of one of three state grants in renewable energy/job training for ex-offender community solar power pilot project.


Cristina Deutsch


Originally from Cochabamba, Bolivia, Cristina is a founding Board member of The Immigration Project and long-time member of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Bloomington, both of which are allies/members of IPA. Cristina is also active in the Crusillo movement in Peoria Catholic Diocese. Cristina was a key leader in the IPA Welcoming City campaign, the Driver’s License campaign and earlier work reimbursing unpaid wages to dozens of undocumented hotel workers. Latina.


Rev. Alphonso Lyons

Board Member

Senior Pastor of Mt. Zion Baptist church, an African American congregation located in a low-income, community-of-color Peoria neighborhood. Rev. Lyons is a leader on the Peoria environmental justice team, which grew out of his congregation. Many of his congregants suffer from health issues due to proximity to coal burning power plant. He is the founder of METEC (Mt. Zion’s Effort to Equip the Community) which IPA worked with during the 2008 foreclosure crisis. He is a Bradley graduate (1971) and has his Masters in Education Administration (Bradley, 1986). 


Paul and Verlyn Rosenberger

Board Members

Long-time IPA leaders in IPA’s predatory lending and environmental justice campaigns, Paul and Verlyn became members through their congregation, First Presbyterian Church of Decatur. Verlyn is a member of the congregation’s peacemaking committee. Verlyn is a retired public school teacher and Paul is a retired staff engineer. Active in their community, are officers in the Audubon Society, Verlyn is a Master Gardener and is the president of her neighborhood organization. Paul uses a wheelchair due to Guillain Barre Syndrome.

Where We Organize

IPA is currently active in:

  • Bloomington-Normal

  • Champaign-Urbana

  • Decatur

  • Peoria

  • Galesburg

  • Galena

  • Johnson County

  • Danville

  • Rockford


We Need Your Support Today!

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