Ann Forbeck is a dynamo for families
People Who Matter
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Ann G. Forbeck
Her middle initial: It stands for "Gallagher," which comes from her grandmother. The family has made a tradition of giving the middle name to the firstborn, so she shares it with her father and her son Marty, 13.
Community: Beloit. "I really consider myself a Rock County resident. I really want to see the walls between the two communities come down."
Origins: "I'm a UP'er," she says proudly. "I tell people that means I was born a Packer fan." She grew up in both upper and lower Michigan. Her father was in vocational education, and the family moved a lot. She attended eight different schools by the time she got to seventh grade.
Education: Bachelor's degree in psychology and master's in social work, both from University of Michigan, where she met her husband, Matt Forbeck of Beloit.
Family: Husband, Matt; five children, Marty and the 9-year-old quadruplets—Helen, Kenny, Nicholas and Patrick, all named after grandparents. The quadruplets were the surprising result of a fertility drug. She was told there was a 1 percent chance she would conceive more than two. Matt is a writer of fiction and video game creator. His work can be seen at Forbeck.com.
Job: Homeless coordinator for the Janesville School District for the past six years. The federal grant that pays for her position is running out, and if it is not renewed, she could be out of a job. The grant announcement is expected this spring.
Hobbies: A book club named Bibliotherapy and a yoga class.
Role models: Marge Hallenbeck, her former boss and coordinator of student services at the Janesville School District, who, despite all the pressures of her job, would always take the time to put people first and maintain relationships. She calls Hallenbeck and her current supervisor, Yolanda Cargile, two of the best bosses she's ever had.
To help: Project 16:49 is fundraising to establish shelters and other services for youths in Rock County who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. Also needed are families to provide temporary shelters and mentors for homeless youths. Checks can be made out to Project 1649 and mailed to YWCA of Rock County at 1735 S. Washington St., Janesville WI 53546, or donate online at www.project1649.org.
For Ann Forbeck, it's all about family.
Her job is helping families in crisis. Her own family is just as challenging. She's the mother of five, four of whom arrived at the same time.
That's right, quadruplets.
Colleagues and collaborators marvel at her hard work as homeless coordinator for the Janesville School District and her dedication to Project 16:49, whose goal is to build shelters for homeless youths.
"It's amazing to me how she could handle all of that and still be the dynamic social worker she is for the school district," said Karen Lisser of the ECHO charity, who serves with Forbeck on the interagency group called HEAT— Homeless Education Action Team.
"She never shows any signs of stress. She just takes everything in stride. ... She's so gracious to everyone that's been part of the team," Lisser marveled.
Forbeck said she certainly feels stress.
Perhaps her demeanor has something to do with her career, most of which has focused on helping at-risk adolescents.
"I think all of us social workers are so used to dealing with chaos that it appears we're calm," she said.
The Janesville School District identified 416 students who were homeless for at least part of last school year. This year, the numbers could go higher.
Countywide, 881 students were identified as homeless during 2010-11. Most are homeless with at least one parent, but some are on their own with no place to call home.
Forbeck has turned from social worker to promoter, spending hours raising money and awareness to establish two shelters for homeless Rock County youths—one in Janesville, one in Beloit.
She has plenty of help in that endeavor, including "16:49," a film that documents the lives of local homeless youths. The title refers to the portion of the day the kids are not in school.
Jessica Schafer, a client advocate at ECHO, marvels that Forbeck can find balance between her job and her home. She has seen her at a weekend car show, selling raffle tickets for a donated car and marching with her family in the Labor Day parade for the same purpose.
If there's an opportunity to present "16:49" to a community group, Forbeck is there, colleagues said.
"She is somehow able to balance spending time with her kids and then doing all the extra things she does for all the homeless kids here in Janesville. It's just amazing," Schafer said.
Forbeck admits to working some nontraditional hours, but she has a secret weapon: her husband.
Matt Forbeck is a work-at-home dad.
Not only does Matt handle child care, he also set up the Project 16:49 website and Facebook page and fills orders for DVDs of the documentary.
"He's incredibly supportive," she said. "I really don't think I could work without him being home."