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Crews continue work on Muslim community center

Muslim Educational Trust needs $5 million to finish new building


by: TIMES PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Foundation work continues at the Muslim Educational Trust school on Scholls Ferry Road. The building is expected to be completed by next December if the organization can raise an estimated $5 million for its construction. Wajdi Said is hoping for a miracle.

Said — the co-founder and president of the Muslim Educational Trust — is looking to raise $5 million to finish a community center and school currently under construction on Scholls Ferry Road.

The Muslim Education Trust works to improve relations between the Islamic and non-Muslim communities across the Portland area through talks and community events and operates a private elementary and secondary school. But several months ago, the organization moved from its longtime home near Conestoga Drive, as construction crews began work on a new $9 million community center and school on the site.

The 36,000-square-foot building will be a major improvement from the hodge-podge of portables the school used for the past 13 years, but the organization has a long way to go toward its fundraising goals.

To date, MET has raised less than half the funds needed for the $9 million community center.

Rania Ayoub, a spokeswoman for MET, said the organization couldn’t wait to break ground on the project, with or without the funding in place.

“It’s a different methodology than others,” Ayoub said. “We’ve been dreaming of this for 10 years, and for the longest time, people have given money, but they said, ‘We donate and donate and don’t see anything happening.’ To get people more excited, they need to see action happening. When we break ground, we mobilize people more.”

Ayoub said there is no doubt about whether the group will raise enough money to finish the project.

“We have faith that it will come through,” she said. “We will all come together and finish this project. Those kids deserve it.”

Understanding and love

During construction, the school moved to a small office park on Southwest Nimbus Avenue in the Beaverton city limits.

On Thursday, Dec. 19, Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle, Washington County Sheriff Pat Garrett and others gathered at the Muslim Educational Trust for an open house and fundraiser, as the organization attempts to raise the funds to finish the building, which MET hopes to finish by next December.

“It has been fun watching the construction start to happen,” said Doyle. “I really believe in what you’re doing. My wife is an educator, and the only way that we can change the world is by one person at a time, and by one family. It can happen, never lose faith on that.”

The school will technically be built on the Tigard side of Scholls Ferry Road, but Garrett noted that MET’s work impacts the entire region.

“The Muslim Educational Trust, and particularly the interfaith work that you do, spreads understanding and love in our community,” Garrett said. “That keeps all of us safe.”

Doyle said he couldn’t wait to see the finished product.

“You are going to love the building,” he said. “And you will love it because of what’s inside it, not because of the building itself.”

Engage the community

Construction crews have so far built about 20 percent of the new community center, Said estimated.

“We hope these children will be the ones that make a beautiful history to the United States both as Americans and as an added value to our society,” Said noted. “We’d like them to engage the community in a positive way.”

The partially finished building has already been an inspiration for others, Ayoub said, with cash coming in from families excited to see the work continue.

“I took a gentleman that had been a member of our community for 22 years to see (the construction), and believe it or not, the moment he saw the construction and the walls erected, he started crying,” Said recalled. “He said that without MET, he wouldn’t have really engaged in a positive and constructive way. He married a Catholic lady, and they brought an understanding of Islam and Catholicism.”

Said called on public leaders to spread the word about MET’s message and mission.

“There are more than 32 ethnic groups in our immediate community,” Said noted. “That is real diversity and strength in addition to the American dream. The Muslim community worldwide is a beautiful community and a positive construct. Yes, we have rotten apples, but everybody has them. We need you to speak on our behalf that the Muslim community is engaging, the Muslim community is positive, and the Muslim community has opened its doors and is inclusive.”

For more information about the community center, or to make a donation, visit www.metpdx.org/CC




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