Margaret Mary Toomey


Margaret Mary Toomey

"Margaret Toomey's story is one of faith, hope, and courage…proof that one person can have a significant impact on the lives of many others." - Mary Milz, 2002

Margaret Mary Toomey of Des Moines devoted nearly three decades of her life to serving the residents of Des Moines' Oakridge Neighborhood. A one-time Dominican sister, Toomey taught English and served as chaplain in Wisconsin before moving to Des Moines in 1972. Soon after moving to the Oakridge neighborhood, she began volunteering with children and elderly residents and led a tenant group to successfully fight a rent increase. In 1973 she joined the board of directors and in 1975 became the complex manager of the Oakridge Neighborhood. Not only was she the executive director for the 300-unit housing project, she was also the fundraiser, public relations manager, family counselor, maintenance supervisor, playground supervisor, and eyes of the neighborhood working with the Des Moines Police Department. During Toomey's tenure, Oakridge opened a nationally accredited childcare center, started after-school programs, organized activities for the elderly and provided computer, vocational and job training programs. When drug and gang violence found their way to Oakridge, Toomey fought back. She added cameras and security gates, hired off-duty police officers, and joined residents in several marches and rallies to "take back" their neighborhood. Toomey was born in Chicago on August 23, 1937. Toomey was inducted into the Iowa Women's Hall of Fame in 2003.