Iceland Donates $75,000 to Small North Dakota Town for New Community Center

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A small North Dakota town is getting a bit of foreign aid to help build its community center: a $75,000 donation from Iceland.

Officials in Mountain, a northeastern North Dakota community with a rich Icelandic heritage told Iceland Prime Minister Geir Haarde about the $1.3 million community center project when he came to the town last year for the 108th annual August the Deuce Icelandic Celebration. It commemorates the beginning of Iceland's journey to independence from Denmark.

"The ongoing effort by our family and friends in North Dakota to preserve and honor their rich and unique Icelandic heritage, history and culture is an inspiration to the people of Iceland," Haarde said in a statement. "We recognize the necessity of this project and the commitment of those who are involved ... and we feel that it is important for us to assist them in their efforts."

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Nicole Thompson said it is difficult to say how often foreign governments make donations to U.S. projects, though she called the relationship between Mountain and Iceland interesting.

Mountain's community center will house the local fire department, a cafe and other businesses, a banquet room and a church office. Mountain Mayor Tim Moore said it will serve not only the town but the region, where people from Iceland settled in the 1870s.