LOS ANGELES—More than 500 ARS members, supporters, and guests gathered for the Armenian Relief Society of Western USA’s Gala 2018 at Taglyan Cultural Complex on Friday, February 9. The event celebrated the 34th anniversary of the ARS of Western USA region, alongside its vast accomplishments in the humanitarian sphere.
Official guests in attendance included His Eminence Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church; His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America; Father Parsegh Baghdassarian of the Armenian Catholic Church; Rev. Vatche Ekmekjian of the Armenian Evangelical Union of North America; ARS Central Executive Vice-Chairperson Nyree Derderian and Members Rita Hintlian and Maral Matossian; ARF Central Committee representative Garo Ispendjian; Apo Boghigian, Editor of Asbarez Daily Newspaper; California State Senator Anthony Portantino; Glendale City Mayor Vartan Gharpetian and City Councilmember Zareh Sinanyan; alongside other elected officials, representatives of sister organizations, supporters, and a large number of ARS members.
The event began with a cocktail hour starting at 7 p.m. during which a silent auction also took place. Upon the start of the official program, tenor Raffi Kerbabian sang the American, Armenian, and ARS anthems, accompanied by pianist Hovsep Torossian.
Welcoming remarks were delivered by Vicky Marashlian, ARS Gala Organizing Committee Chairperson, who thanked guests for their attendance and emphasized the importance of ARS programs, stating “The challenges faced by populations throughout the world only reaffirm the meaning and necessity of an organization, such as ours, founded over 100 years ago. Our organization’s passion to strive for the betterment of society has never faltered. Rather, this passion continues to grow, flourish, and thrive…It is limitless and knows no bounds, and it is this quality, found in each ARS member, that manifests itself into a drive to determinedly seek to offer vital aid, assistance, and resources, which reach and benefit communities across the globe.”
The invocation was performed by Archbishop Mardirossian, who invited Archbishop Derderian and the clergy of the Armenian Catholic Church and Armenian Evangelical Union to join in prayer. Upon addressing guests, Archbishop Mardirossian reflected on how the support of guests at the event successfully helps back the essential humanitarian and educational programs of the ARS. Citing the 100th Anniversary of the First Republic of Armenia, the Prelate assured that ARS programs will successfully carry forward into the future.
The ARS Regional Executive Board’s message was delivered by Chairperson Silva Poladian, who first extended appreciation to the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, whose member E. Agnouni founded the Armenian Relief Society 108 years ago. Poladian then stated, “The scope of the ARS reaches Armenian orphans, refugees, generations of Armenians who are survivors of the Armenian Genocide, homeless individuals and families, job seekers, and beyond.” She gave mention to the commitment of the ARS toward preserving the Armenian language and culture, proudly expressing that the ARS of Western USA region currently has 26 chapters throughout the Western United States, as well as 16 one-day schools, and one day-care center.
Thereafter, Chairperson Poladian stressed the importance of the ARS Social Services offices; the Child, Youth and Family Guidance Center; the work of regional committees and ARS members in serving the public. She affirmed, “The ARS will never be discouraged, yet will further its noble mission thanks to the diligent work of its members, donors, and supporters.”
U.S. Congressman Adam Schiff (California’s 28th District) made a surprise appearance at the event and delivered remarks to guests, extending thanks to the ARS of Western USA for its continuous efforts in assisting populations in need both locally and internationally. Congressman Schiff also particularly thanked the event’s Diamond Sponsors ($10,000), which included Forest Lawn, Mr. & Mrs. Varant and Hoori Melkonian, Mr. Mike Sarian, and Mr. & Mrs. Sarkis and Nune Sepetjian.
The ARS Central Executive Board’s message was delivered by Maral Matossian, who emphasized that the Armenian people are most successful when joined in common spirit and cause. She informed that on the occasion of the 100th Anniversary of the First Republic of Armenia, the ARS Central Executive Board has organized a conference on May 24, 2018 at the Yerevan State University titled “The Role of Armenian Women from Renaissance to the First Republic.” Reflecting on the work of the ARS Central Executive, she highlighted the following: the reopening of the ARS Stepanakert “Soseh” Kindergarten; sponsoring hospital beds at the Military Disability Rehabilitation Center in Armenia for wounded and disabled soldiers; the ARS Mother & Child Clinic and Birthing Center in Akhourian, Armenia where solar panels will be installed following a donation by Dr. & Mrs. Murad and Flora Ookhtens; implementing a program to secure homes for families in Gyumri; and upcoming participation at the 62nd Conference of the UN Commission on the Status of Women on March 12, 2018.
Following these remarks, Chairperson Poladian delivered a remarkable announcement to guests, informing that Mrs. Manoush Mamian has made a $50,000 donation to the Armenian Relief Society in memory of her husband, Garen Mamian, to sponsor the building of two homes in Gyumri, Armenia. Inspired by the work of the organization and the moving messages delivered throughout the evening, Mrs. Mamian immediately increased her donation to $100,000 at the event. The announcement was followed by great applause by guests in attendance.
California State Senator Anthony Portantino also addressed guests and the impactful humanitarian work of the organization. He presented a Certificate of Recognition to Chairperson Poladian recognizing the ARS of Western USA’s tireless advocacy of families in the homeland and Diaspora, as well as its philanthropic and ongoing commitment to promoting education and preserving the Armenian heritage.
A candle lighting ceremony then ensued with the participation of 64 candle lighters, sponsored by ARS chapters, members, and supporters. Entertainment followed by Allen G. Orchestra and a performance was also made during the evening by singer André.
There is no doubt that the ARS, including its leadership and membership, was encouraged once again by its supporters and their firm belief in the organization’s mission. The region extends its sincere thanks and appreciation to all sponsors and donors, who contributed to the success of this annual event.