Community pays tribute to committed social philanthropist
Tributes have been paid to a former teacher who was key driver of numerous social causes in and around Wisbech.
Over the years, Mike Forrest’s dedication and commitment to areas such as education and tackling homelessness influenced the lives of thousands of people.
He served as chairman of the Ferry Project for eight years, the Wisbech Reads literacy scheme and the social housing provider Chorus Homes.
A teacher at Wisbech Grammar School for 32 years, Mr Forrest was also one of the leaders of the King’s Church, Wisbech.
There, he organised the preaching club, played keyboard in the church’s band and helped launch ‘Messy Church’.
Close friend Keith Smith, who is the founder of the Ferry Project, said: “There’s a huge swathe of the Wisbech population that probably doesn’t realise Mike’s involvement would’ve seriously influenced or benefitted them.
“Without his support the Ferry Project would’ve struggled, and he has helped 30,000 tenants across the East of England with housing through Chorus Homes.
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“He has also been involved in programmes to help children access books and get into reading.”
“What made Mike so special is that he took time to develop personal relationships with individuals so they felt comfortable talking to him when they needed help or support.
“He was a natural at it, and a very humble man too.”
Clive Butcher, an overseer at the King’s Church, added: “Mike was a very strong family man. Many people would look to him for support and care.”
Mr Smith also described Mr Forrest as an “incredible administrator”.
He said: “His meetings were so well organised, and everyone around the table would relax if Mike was the chair. He would coordinate all the different things that needed to be done without any effort.
“I knew when Mike was the lead of a project, everything would be delivered.”
At Wisbech Grammar School, Mr Forrest taught chemistry and guided hundreds of pupils through the subject.
He held a number of key senior positions - including Deputy Head Academic - and was also involved in wider school activities including sports coaching.
In its tribute, the school explained Mr Forrest approached teaching and learning as a “vocation”.
It said: “Mike had, and continues to have, a huge influence on our very special WGS community.”
When Mr Forrest retired at the end of the 2016/17 academic year, he set up a scheme called the ‘Acorn Fund’.
Pupils could apply for ‘seed’ money to try and help a local community within the Wisbech Grammar School catchment area.
The seed money would be used to kick start the fundraising needed to get the project off the ground.
An article in the school’s Riverline magazine said: “Why [is the scheme called] Acorn? Well, from acorns you get trees, and lots of trees make a Forrest!”
Mr Forrest served as chair of Chorus Homes from 2017.
Its managing director, Nigel Finney, said: “We are very grateful for all his work and support over this time.
“It was an honour and a privilege to have worked with Mike. He was so kind and supportive to many of us and we will never forget him.”
He added: “In a world of ambiguity and turmoil, Mike’s thoroughly dignified and decent conduct is an example for us all to aspire to.”
Mr Forrest also remained committed to education through the Wisbech Reads programme and in his appointment as a governor at Peckover School.
The school’s principal Carrie Norman said: “He was a great advocate of the school and used his past teaching and leadership skills to support the local governing body and school.
“He cared deeply about the children and also the welfare of the staff.”
He was also part of the Wisbech High Street Consultative Committee which secured a Heritage Lottery grant to improve some of the town’s buildings.
Mr Forrest died peacefully at home with close friends and family by his side on November 27 following a short illness. He was aged 64.
He leaves his wife Carol and was a much-loved dad, grandad, son and brother.
His funeral service will be private. Donations are welcome for the Arthur Rank Hospice Charity and the Ferry Project.