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Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park

Syrian Community Network Returns To Upgraded Edgewater Offices That Were Destroyed By Fire

After working out of a church for six months, the refugee aid group is back in its renovated — and expanded — offices.

The Syrian Community Network's renovated offices at 5439 N. Broadway.
Joe Ward/Block Club Chicago
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EDGEWATER — After a fire destroyed the Syrian Community Network’s offices, the organization turned to Edgewater residents to help them continue their work.

Now, the group is back in its renovated — and expanded — offices, where it can help even more refugee and immigrant families settle into their new homes.

In March, a fire tore through the building at 5439 N. Broadway, where the Syrian Community Network occupied the first floor. A man was wounded and a dog was killed in the fire, officials said at the time.

The fire also left the Syrian Community Network’s offices completely destroyed and the group temporarily homeless. But after an outpouring from neighbors, the refugee aid group was able to work in the Edgewater Presbyterian Church.

Despite the destruction caused by the fire, the event turned out to be a blessing in disguise for the aid group. Their landlord rebuilt their space in the first floor and converted the second floor from apartments to office use, allowing the Syrian Community Network to expand both its space and programming.

Water damage destroyed much of Syrian Community Network’s office.

“We already outgrew the location before the fire,” said Suzanne Sahloul, executive director of the Syrian Community Network. “So now, we’ve doubled in size.”

Before, the first floor contained office space and programming space, where it welcomed kids for educational activities and families for case work.

Now, the programming space takes up the entire first floor, with the office and meeting space taking up the second floor. The expansion has allowed the group to up its capacity in some programming, as well as offer new services, Sahloul said.

“We’ve really become a community center, which is nice because we can better serve our clients and the community,” she said.

The Syrian Community Network helps immigrants and refugees from the country resettle into homes locally and throughout the U.S. Services include child tutoring, language classes, immigration case management and advocacy efforts.

The new offices have allowed the group to now offer job certification programs and driving courses for women, said Shannon Sweetnam, national director of operations for the Syrian Community Network.

“Before, some of our programs didn’t have a home,” she said. “We had to pack up and move everything. Now, [the space] can be a home away from home for the kids.”

The aid group fully moved into the renovated space in late October and had an open house Friday.

The group looked at other spaces in Rogers Park and West Ridge, where it would have been closer to some of its clients, Sahloul said. But staying put and expanding in Edgewater was the best case scenario, she said.

“I think we all got attached to this location,” she said. “We love it here.”

Suzanne Sahloul, executive director of the Syrian Community Network.

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