A photo of Kara Wagner Sherer (far right), St. John's Episcopal Church's rector, standing with parishioners and members of the Kamil family. Credit: Image courtesy St. John's Episcopal Church.

IRVING PARK — St. John’s Episcopal Church is raising back-to-school funds for a refugee family from Iraq at a family fun fest this weekend.

The fest, from 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday in the church garden, 3857 N. Kostner Ave., will include yard games, a baked good sale and food. The event aims to raise money for the Kamil family, who immigrated to the U.S. from Iraq in 2016, said Erica Zazo, a parishioner at the church.

The youngest of the Kamil family’s four children are getting ready to go back to school, and the church’s youth group wanted to help raise funds for their school supplies. Zazo said.

“Also we just want to have the church’s youth socialize with the family’s younger children because they’re still making new friends here,” Zazo said. “So why not have them make friends here.”

The suggested fest donation is $10 for adults and $5 for children. 

The church’s youth group has students that range in age from kindergarten to sixth grade. Adult parishioners, like Zazo, are helping them with organizing the event and getting the word out.

“And the reason we’re asking for money instead of school supplies is that you don’t always know what kids need or want. So just because you think a little girl may want a My Little Pony backpack, that may not be true,” Zazo said. “So we want to be able to give the family the funds so they can go out and get what the kids need for school.”

Kara Wagner Sherer, the church’s rector, said the group is hoping for a good turnout Sunday.

“Because [the benefitted family is] Muslim, we don’t ask them to come to services, only cultural celebrations like Thanksgiving, Sherer said. “So a family festival is also just a chance for them to do something fun with us.”

This isn’t the first time that St. John’s parishioners have stepped up to help the Muslim community, Sherer said. A member of her parish who is a lawyer went to O’Hare Airport when the Trump administration banned travelers from seven majority-Muslim countries last year to help those impacted.

St. John’s has also lent support to initiatives like the Old Irving Park Affordable Housing Project, marched in anti-gun and violence rallies in Chicago and hosts a Darwin Day every year to talk about science and religion, among other things.

“With our church, having a very strong social justice focus in the city is important,” Zazo said. “Everything from participating in the Pride Parade to going to Springfield for death penalty and environmental issues. There’s an endless slew of social justice things that we focus on.”

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