By Robb Murray
Free Press Staff Writer
MANKATO — By next weekend, you might notice something a bit different about Mankato’s Islamic Center.
That’s because a group of students from a community leadership class at Minnesota State University students has decided to take on the project of cleaning up the center.
“We’re required to do a project that’s beneficial the community,” said Abdi Sabrie, one of the students in the class. “We have to do it with our own physical skills, and engage other community sectors.”
Sabrie, who is the director of the African Family and Education Center, also happens to be on the board of the Islamic Center. And the Islamic Center recently had a visit from the fire department regarding some safety hazards on the grounds.
So, as Sabrie said, “The timing is great.”
The community leadership class group started meeting with neighbors and the other members of the Islamic Center board. They came up with a plan, then, to beautify the grounds.
To get there, though, they needed help.
Home Depot will be sending someone who knows a little bit about handiwork. Smith Lawn Care owner Jordan Smith will be on hand to offer expertise in landscaping. They’ll be removing trees, clearing trash from the alley side of the building — there had been some drywall dumped there that has never been hauled away.
They’d also like to create a space where children of Islamic Center families can play.
“Personally, I’d like to put a swing and slide for the kids to play on, and some protections from the street,” Sabrie said.
They’re working with the city of Mankato on installing a proper fence.
Sabrie said that, at first, members of the group seemed uncertain whether the Islamic Center project would be a good fit for them. But he said that, after the initial meeting, the group’s attitude changed from uncertain to gung-ho.
The group even grew. Whereas initially just Sabrie’s group had planned to work on the Islamic Center project, after the initial meeting another group joined them. There are currently 10 students working on this project.
“They didn’t know at first,” Sabrie said. “Once they saw the space and had a tour and we gave them history of the center and what it does, there were very excited.”
The original plan was to do the work this weekend, but weather prompted them to reschedule for Friday.
“We’re not looking for fame,” Sabrie said. “We’re looking to set an example for the greater community that there are ways to breach barriers.”