Forbes grew up in a Christian family headed by his pastor father, who still is active in the ministry as he nears his 84th birthday and 67th wedding anniversary. Growing up, he wanted to follow his father as a football player and attend the University of California at Berkeley. Injuries sidelined his football career and his Cal dream. He wasn’t a fit at UC Irvine, moved to Northern California and then joined the Army.
He loved to cook and did that for three years in Korea. After his discharge, he wrestled with post traumatic stress and went off the rails by self-medicating despite a good job running restaurants, a wife and three kids. His wife finally ran out of patience and divorced him. That accelerated the downward spiral until he was involved in criminal behavior and in-and-out of jail.
Finally, in July 2015, while in Santa Rita jail in Dublin, Forbes said God gave him a choice: he was going to serve him whether behind bars our outside. Forbes decided outside was better and completed the jail’s program to turn his life around and prepare for re-entry. He's been sober and drug-free since that time. After his release, he moved to the veteran’s housing at Operation Dignity in Alameda and, from there, received a housing voucher that he used for a one-bedroom apartment in Livermore.
His background as a cook and desire to feed people down on their luck started him on the path of feeding homeless people and then serving what amounted to an apprenticeship with the Alameda County Food Bank that prepared him for his leadership with One Nation Dream Makers. The focus started on veterans and continues there, but it’s broadened to providing food for individuals and organizations serving people throughout the East Bay.
Each Monday, the 10 employees gather at the former Alameda County Fire Station on College Avenue in Livermore to prepare food boxes for distribution. Some go Tri-Valley Seek and Save, while others are delivered to Eden Housing’s veteran’s housing complex in Dublin as well to enlisted personnel at Camp Parks.
Just last week, One Nation received a one-year, renewable lease for the fire station. You could say the organization earned the space by sweat labor. When Forbes and Alameda County Supervisor David Haubert started discussing the space, it was full of protective equipment that the fire department had stockpiled during the pandemic. They cleaned out the station and moved the equipment once and then ended up moving it again.
The station now is partially full with donated equipment. Forbes received a refrigerated truck and lots of other equipment when Checkers Catering closed its 34-year-old business during the pandemic. Another truck also was donated—they have three plus a van.
Forbes’ personal life now has turned around. He’s remarried and living and working in Livermore.
While he was starting One Nation food program, he continued to operate his cooking business, serving pop-up meals at three farmers’ markets each week. That covered the bills. About 18 months ago, God told him to focus on One Nation and stop the farmers’ market business. Since then, they’ve done fine financially. His wife, a Filipina, loves to care for people. She spent months caring for a terminally ill woman. When she passed, Forbes asked the landlord about the single-family home and they were able to move in at an affordable rent.
He's also reconnected with his ex-wife, his three grown children and seven grandchildren.
As you talk with him, his enthusiasm boils over as he lays out plans for the future. As Jacqueline Garcia told me, despite the end of the pandemic, the need is increasingly, not falling. That means both ministries will have more to do.
Forbes will be the keynote speaker next Friday at the 29th annual Fremont Leadership Prayer breakfast at the Fremont Downtown Event Center.
For information, please see www.onenationdreammakers.org or follow the organization on Facebook.