2014-01-17 / Front Page

Readers select ‘Great Person’

By Michael Kelley Staff Writer

For more than 25 years, Ron Forest has been helping children both near and far through work with Scarborough Kiwanis. This dedication and his spirit of generosity has earned Forest the Scarborough Leader’s Great Person of the Year award for 2013. (Michael Kelley photo) For more than 25 years, Ron Forest has been helping children both near and far through work with Scarborough Kiwanis. This dedication and his spirit of generosity has earned Forest the Scarborough Leader’s Great Person of the Year award for 2013. (Michael Kelley photo) Scarborough is a better place because of people like Ron Forest, the winner of the Scarborough Leader’s Great Person of 2013 contest.

Jackie Perry, who nominated Forest for the honor, said he is “one of the most generous men you will ever meet.”

Forest, who owns and operates Ron Forest and Sons Fence Company on Payne Road, is not one for attention. He is perfectly happy working behind the scenes to improve the lives of people who live in Scarborough, particularly its youngest residents.

Perry met Forest more than 20 years ago when she began getting involved with Scarborough Kiwanis, an international group known for the work it does with children.

“He doesn’t look for accolades. He does things because he sees a need, or because someone asks him to do something,” Perry said. “There’s never been a time where Kiwanis has been doing a project or the students have been doing something where he hasn’t willingly participated.”

Forest, a 1965 graduate of Thornton Academy, has been living in Scarborough since he was 21, when he built a home on Payne Road. Forest now lives a short drive away on Maple Avenue.

Forest said he first heard about Kiwanis in 1986 through the church he went to in South Portland. Forest immediately began working to establish a chapter in Scarborough. He is one of the two charter members who are still involved with the organization.

Kiwanis, Forest said, was a perfect fit for him because it focused on helping children.

“I was asked to join a bunch of different organizations, but they didn’t fit what I did, which was helping children and the community,” Forest said.

Perry said Forest, an avid gardener and ballroom dancer, has been involved with making sure the patients in the Maine Children’s Cancer Program have the toys and activities they need at the center to take their minds off their treatments, even for just a little while. For years, she said, Forest has donated an electric wheelchair to the center.

For the past five or six years, Forest has constructed the sets for the Scarborough Middle School theater club. Perry said he is also supportive of the yearly leaf raking service project of Scarborough High School’s Key Club, one of several youth service organizations Scarborough Kiwanis has set up in the schools.

Perry said Forest is a strong supporter of the athletic programs at Scarborough High School and Thornton Academy, where he captained the football team. He is the founder of Scarborough Kiwanis’ annual fishing derby at Bayley’s Campground, which is in its 28th year.

“I cannot think of a project involving children where he has not been involved,” Perry wrote in her nomination. “He is unselfish and caring and a credit to our community.”

“My focus has always been on helping children,” Forest said. “When I was governor of the New England District (of Kiwanis), my slogan was ‘Children are our Rising Stars,’ because teaching them the value of giving back will better our world in the long run.”

Forest’s service to children, however, is only part of the way he betters Scarborough and the surrounding area. Forest has donated lumber to countless organizations and financially supported several arts organizations in Portland. He has even helped neighbors and employees by coordinating the rebuilding of homes that had been lost to fire.

Forest also supports Project G.R.A.C.E. (Granting Resources and Assistance through Community Efforts), the Scarborough-based organization that helps those in need in town, in part by facilitating a fuel assistance program.

“There was a huge need for fuel assistance in town last year and Ron dug deep for that. He really did. All of the Kiwanians did as well. He just doesn’t let needs like that pass by,” Perry said.

Forest’s impact reaches far beyond Scarborough.

“I am constantly trying to better communities other than my own. Any community I work in is deserving of my help, if I can help,” Forest said.

Right now, he is teaching a group of senior citizens from South Portland how to fundraise and solicit donations.

“He has contributed countless hours in making life better for our children locally, regionally and globally,” Perry wrote in her nomination.

Forest has financially supported Kiwanis’ efforts to eradicate iodine deficiencies and recently donated $25,000 to The Eliminate Project, Kiwanis International’s effort to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus in developing countries.

Forest said he is happy to share what he has with others.

“I made good money. I’ve always been blessed with good health, my family has been blessed with good health. If I have been fortunate to have more, I share it with people,” Forest said.

Forest said although his parents were not involved with service organizations, they taught him the value of goodwill.

“My parents were not part of any organizations. They grew up in the era of the Great Depression. My mom and dad were both hard workers to make sure that sort of thing didn’t happen to them again. Their lives didn’t allow them to be part of any of those organizations, but they were very caring and giving to neighbors and friends,” Forest said.

Forest said his life is better because of the work he did to better the lives of others.

“I believe it enriches my life to give back to people. I feel good about life. I feel good about myself. If you have that passion to be helpful, you can be helpful,” Forest said.

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