Earlier in July, Maxine Fookson and her husband, Ned Rosch, were watching a PBS Newshour segment about displaced Iraqis in Fallujah when they saw Mustafa Ahmed Abed, a 13-year old boy they helped eight years ago.
In 2008 Maxine and Ned established their own Portland chapter of No More Victims, a nonprofit that helps to bring children wounded by war to the U.S. for treatment. One of these children was Mustafa, who lost his leg at the age of 2 in a missile strike in Fallujah in 2004.
A Fallujah doctor reached out to No More Victims, and at age 5 Mustafa came to Portland with his father Ahmed. Mustafa received treatment and was fitted for a prosthetic leg at Doernbecher Children’s Hospital and Shriners Hospital.
Mustafa remained in Portland for over three months and was received warmly during his stay. He “embodied the tenacity to keep on going after horrific things that had happened to him,” said Ned.
The plan was for Mustafa to return every couple years to be fitted with a new leg, but by 2010, Ned and Maxine had lost contact with Ahmed because of the limited resources for communication in his family’s village just outside Fallujah.
Ned and Maxine feared the worst, especially since ISIS took control of Fallujah in January 2014. “For the last two years we’ve of course been hearing of ISIS in Fallujah with this horrible feeling,” Maxine said. “A horrible feeling on a geopolitical, big world level and a horrible feeling because there’s somebody there that I know and love. I don’t think we knew how to begin to find him.”
However, reporter Jane Arraf met Mustafa in the camp where he and 30,000 people are currently living outside the city. ISIS has barred people from traveling to other provinces within Iraq and they are unable to return to the city, which is heavily damaged. With Jane’s help and Ahmed’s passport and old travel documents, Mustafa was able to reconnect with the couple that had helped him.
Maxine, Ned and an Arabic-speaking couple to help translate sat down and were able to finally contact Mustafa over the phone. The connection was poor and their conversation was brief, but they could hear one another again.
“We just kept saying ‘We love you, we love you,’ and he said, ‘I love you,'” Maxine said.
Unfortunately Mustafa has had to go without the medical supplies that he desperately needs in the bleak conditions many are now facing. Ned and Maxine are fundraising through Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility to get medical supplies to Mustafa in the camp.
Compassion became an act of practical service recently when students at Corban University raised hundreds of dollars to pay rent for a single mother.
It all started at Hillcrest Youth Correctional Facility, where sophomore Micah Ropp volunteers weekly.
The young men at Hillcrest were seeking out ways to serve somebody.
“Ideas flew,” Ropp said. “It just sort of avalanched.”
Ropp thought there might be someone in need at his church, SonRise. At church next week, he met a single mother at church who needed assistance.
The only issue was that it would take Hillcrest some time to fundraise. Ropp knew the need was immediate to help this young woman and immediately went to his Resident Assistant (RA) Nathan Swanson, a senior.
“Micah was really the heart behind this,” Swanson said. “He just brought [the idea] to me and said, ‘Here’s what’s going on, how can we help?’ As his RA, I love doing stuff like that – hearing what [my residents] love and helping support them. It was a cool opportunity to be a support in his life, talking with him through the process.”
Ropp had no hesitation about helping the woman and started fundraising.
“I chose to help because I saw a need,” Ropp said. “I saw somebody who needed help, and I have the ability, the resources and the influence to help. I didn’t think twice about it.”
Swanson proceeded to present the idea to the rest of the RA team, which then relayed the plan to the residents in the other halls.
“We all decided that we could just tell our halls during our small groups and Bible studies during that week, and we could see how much money we can get – and it ended up being a lot,” Swanson said.
During high school, Carley Davis, junior and RA, recognized a special place in her heart for teen moms.
“Being an advocate for this cause is something that I’ve been passionate about,” she said. “So when Micah and Nathan informed our team about the situation, I knew it was something I couldn’t help but want to be a part of.”
Davis’s hall of 20 students spent a night together writing the single mother encouraging cards and praying for her.
Ropp also individually approached Bethany Janzen, junior and president of the Students for Life club. Janzen has a passion to help teen moms who have chosen life for their children. The club also donated to the cause.
The collaboration raised $580 to help the single mom. The Hillcrest youth later raised an additional $200 with a BBQ fundraiser.
Bethany Janzen, student at Corban University, and Rebecca, a patron living at Lucille’s home mingle at an open house for residents and donors.
The money paid more than three months of this single mom’s living expenses at Lucille’s Home, a Salem ministry that provides a safe living space for single moms and their children. The house is “geared toward preparing the resident and her family for independent, healthy living.”
Sharon Jones and her husband JJ founded the ministry.
“Many years ago, unbeknownst to me, a couple opened up an extra room in their home so that a woman, named Lucille, could have a safe, stable place to live during a very volatile time in her life,” Jones said. “I imagine it was a place where she could think and plan and make decisions for her future and for mine. It is an opportunity to do unto others as these strangers did for my mom.”
Born out of a vision that Jones had for over 30 years, the home was created from her overwhelming desire to thank those people who helped her mom when she was pregnant.
“The story is really complex,” Jones said. She nows sees the full circle of how her dream slowly became a reality.
Jones and her husband have three children. Throughout the years of raising them, the dream to have a home didn’t die as “God slowly built the vision.”
“The timing was just never right,” she said. Eventually, circumstances arose where the Jones’ were provided with the funds to purchase a mobile home. And the ministry was born.
Today, they have a home that four families live in and another home that their first resident lives in with her family as a transition home from the community housing to her own place.
The first resident came last December. Since then, Lucille’s home has housed eight families.
Each family comes with “different suitcases,” Jones said, and the ministry strives to understand the different needs of each.
Jones refers to their residents as their “pioneers,” because they’re helping the Joneses understand “what the ministry needs to do in order to help people live independently with healthy life skills,” she said.
Jones later met Ropp when he offered her a check. She was so impressed by the students’ fundraising efforts to help one of her residents.
“I got excited and thought, ‘Wow, God – You are amazing the way You work through people,’” she said. “I really want God to be glorified in this and what He has done through the students at Corban. Every day it’s more evident that it’s God doing this and not us.”
The For Sale sign seems nondescript beside the neon lights of the Sugar Shack Strip Club in Northeast Portland’s Cully neighborhood, but to many community members the sign was a much awaited answer to prayers.
For years, local nonprofits attempted to buy the property. Others simply hoped the owners would relocate. Situated across the street from two community centers, a pediatric health clinic, school bus stops, and hundreds of units of affordable family housing, residents feel the block-sized strip club detracts from Cully’s positive community development.
Cully remains one of Portland’s most racially and economically diverse neighborhoods. Over recent years, residents teamed with local nonprofits to enact tremendous transformations improving neighborhood livability.
Yet the Sugar Shack remained a central eyesore – until now.
When the For Sale sign went up this past summer, community members jumped to action. Among them was Maabi Munoz, the coordinator of the local nonprofit Verde.
“From that moment on, it has been, ‘let’s go! Let’s get it! How are we going to get it?’” Munoz told Koin 6 News.
Several nonprofits teamed together to invest $55,000 for the purchase – a small dent in the nearly $3 million price tag. The group then turned to a massive fundraising campaign through the crowdfunding site Indie Go-Go.
“It’s not a matter of if we get it, it’s when we get it and we need to get it,” said Munoz.
The seller of the Sugar Shack property has accepted the group’s offer. With 85 days remaining to acquire the necessary funds, the online campaign has raised just over $12,000.
“If we can buy the Sugar Shack Strip Club, then we can make sure redevelopment of the property serves Cully’s needs by creating jobs, supporting local businesses, educating youth, and engaging community,” the fundraising site reads.
The organizations behind the campaign include Verde, Hacienda, Living Cully, and Habitat for Humanity. These same nonprofits are working to improve Portland’s Cully neighborhood through other beneficial projects. The Let Us Build Cully Park coalition transformed a closed landfill into a new 25 acre park. Hacienda built affordable housing, while Habitat for Humanity and Verde provided critical home repairs and weatherization services to Cully homeowners.
Although exact plans for the renovation remain undecided, the new facility will focus on improving the Cully community, according the Munoz.
“When we get the Sugar Shack and we build something, I know it will be something to benefit the children and families in this neighborhood,” Munoz said.