By Steve Holgate
Washington File Special Correspondent
His volunteer work benefits Americans of Iranian descent, other origins
Portland, Oregon -- If any single person can be said to exemplify the finest qualities of Iranian Americans who honor their heritage while fully committing themselves to their adopted country, that person might be Moji Momeni of Beaverton, Oregon, in the northwest of the United States.
Like many Iranians, Momeni came to the Untied States as a student. His father's resources were modest, but through part-time jobs and small scholarships, Momeni was able to earn an engineering degree from Oregon State University and launch a successful career in building and real estate. In a recent interview with the Washington File, Momeni, a youthful man in his 50s with a ready smile, says, "Even while I was still a student, I told myself that someday, if I get the means, I'd like to give something back."
The result has been the Momeni Foundation, a scholarship fund that has helped students of Iranian descent complete their studies in the United States.
For most people, such a generous voluntary gesture might seem like a more-than-sufficient contribution to his community -- but not for Momeni. At the same time that he has been helping people from his birth country, Momeni has also made a strong commitment as a volunteer in service to his adoptive country.
Through his membership on the Citizen Review Board of the State of Oregon, a voluntary institution, Momeni has for several years donated his time to reviewing cases and helping form state policy regarding foster children, helping to improve the lives of countless young people across the state. His efforts recently resulted in his being named board chairman, a post that he will take up October.
Not content with even this contribution, Momeni has come to the assistance of many children who live in the apartment complexes he owns. He first began to work with the children by offering them rewards of $10 for academic excellence, but since has contributed to the welfare of children in other ways.
When he became concerned that their neighborhood had begun, as he said, "to go downhill," he donated one of his apartments as a police community center, where kids could come for wholesome activities and begin to see the policemen as neighbors. Soon, he says, the police officers were buying ice cream for the kids and the community had begun to recover.
The scholarship fund, the activities of the review board, the donation of an apartment for community policing -- Moji Moreni has been paid for none of these. In each case, he has voluntarily donated his time and resources to make his community and his state better places to live. He says with a self-deprecating shrug, "It's part of the Iranian tradition."
For additional information about Iranian volunteerism in the United States, see related article.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)
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