As the epitome of a good Samaritan and loving neighbor, the loss of Mike Forster has left a void in hearts across the Keys. He had led by example in every area of his life, from restaurant owner to community member to County Commissioner, inspiring countless others to get involved whenever a need in the community arose. Mike was a perfect example of doing what you know and using what you have to help others. As the owner of Mangrove Mike’s Café, he knew food and used to help tens of thousands of people through the years.
From Hurricane Irma to the pandemic, Mike saw opportunities where people saw hopelessness. He saw the opportunity to feed those left stranded or isolated, to feed frontline workers or workers who lost their jobs. He saw the opportunity to show love and compassion to those who needed it most. In an interview placed in Keys Life Magazine’s August 2020 issue, Mike credited the Keys community for inspiring him to step forward, saying, “I’ve never seen a community that cares for each other like ours. They have never let anyone in need down, and I want to be a part of that.” It’s fair to say that Mike did just that and has played a very big part in the community he loved. He humbly set things in motion without hesitation, starting with whatever he could manage right away and then running forward as the needs grew and as he rallied others to join his forces. And others always joined because his passion, his energy, and his hope were contagious.
It was his ability to lead by example that led to his many successes, including raising hundreds of thousands of dollars, getting tens of thousands of pounds of food donated, feeding thousands of people daily through storms of every kind, and launching a charitable organization that will live on in his absence. Mangrove Mike’s Endeavors is a 301(c) nonprofit organization that Mike founded during the pandemic with the mission to give back to the community as needed, whether with food, money, or whatever it takes. “What was accomplished during the pandemic is nothing short of a miracle,” Susanne Bloy, CEO of Mangrove Mike’s Endeavors, says. “The Keys came together just as we always have in a crisis. Mike and his volunteers fed people from Ocean Reef all the way to Key West. Putting their own lives in danger of contracting the virus was not a deterrent. Mike knew it had to be done.”
The miracles will continue.
Even though Mike is not here to lead in person, his spirit endures, and those he led before him are stepping up to fill the big footprints he left behind. Susanne Bloy is organizing
a Board of Trustees to keep Mangrove Mike’s Endeavors and Mike’s mission going strong, backed by a grateful community and committed volunteers. “When we lost Mike, the community responded overwhelmingly,” Susanne shares. “Donations have come in, even from people I don’t know, just wanting to do something to ensure Endeavors will go on and to honor Mike’s memory.” Mangrove Mike’s Café is also continuing on as Mike would want. The staff have come together as the big family they are to carry on the torch. After a brief closure to allow time to grieve, the restaurant re-opened its doors to the public or, rather, as Mike would say, his friends. “Anyone who knew him will never forget his kindness, endurance, and loyalty to his community.”
If you would like to make a donation or support Mangrove Mike’s Endeavors in any way, please visit MangroveMikesEndeavors.org.
– Jerrica Mah is a writer, Army wife, and freelance book editor, who loves to travel with her family.