LONDON (AP) – A community center in southwest England has found an unlikely source of funds after reaching out to the wealthy ruler of Dubai.
The Godolphin Cross Community Association announced Thursday that a donation from Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was enough to secure the purchase of a former Methodist chapel for the town’s new community center building.
Villagers contacted the sheikh in September because his famous Godolphin race-horse stables in Newmarket, England, shares the town’s name. His wife’s office responded via email within a few weeks. They spent the following months negotiating the donation.
The amount of the donation was not disclosed. The association had previously said it was about 65,000 pounds ($85,000) short of its goal of 90,000 pounds.
“We showed him our vision for a community center in the village and he was so impressed he decided he would like to help,” said association secretary Paul Gray.
“I don’t know if he’ll visit but he is always welcome,” Gray said. “We’re proof you should never say never.”
Many public spaces in the village have closed, making the donation vital, particularly to youth groups that need a place to meet.
“All of these groups had nowhere to meet,” Gray said. The chapel was the only available space, and without its purchase the “community would cease to function, with nowhere to operate.”
The community association did not immediately release the news because the sheikh, who is also the vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates, is a “private man.”
The government of Dubai did not respond to a request for comment.
Godolphin Cross’s long-term plan is to raise additional money for renovating costs using more traditional funding sources such as grants.
The community center will host the town’s youth group, coffee mornings and general gatherings.