We're happy we could help

Amid all the talk about impending recession, last week the government of Iceland announced a gift of financial assistance to the US. Hold on a minute: Iceland is sending foreign aid here? Yes. Well, sort of.

In fact, $75,000 already has arrived because, in Prime Minister Geir Haarde's words, "We feel it is important for us to assist in their efforts." The money will go for what you might call an infrastructure project ... in Mountain, N.D. The town is home to about 130 hardy folks, many of Icelandic heritage, and stages an annual festival to celebrate it.

Haarde has visited Mountain twice and been impressed with its spirit. So when he learned that it has no community center, he decided to support the campaign to build one. Iceland's gift brings the capital fund for the project to $676,000, or a little over half its goal. The hope is to hold groundbreaking ceremonies this summer.

When finished, the center will house the town offices, the fire department, business space, and maybe an Internet cafe. Oh, plus the Icelandic Communities Association and a banquet hall – which would be useful if Haarde or his successor returns. As Mayor Tom Moore puts it: "Most of our events [have to be held] outdoors, which always has the threat of bad weather. When you're hosting the prime minister of Iceland, you don't want to get rained out."

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