BY RITA HINTLIAN
The 87th Annual Regional Convention of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Western U.S. took place from July 12 through 15 at the Irvine Marriott Hotel in California. Opening ceremonies took place on Thursday, July 12, with Rina Der Alexanian welcoming all the members and guests on behalf of the hosting “Karni” Chapter of South Orange County. The National Anthems of the U.S.A., and the Republic of Armenia were sung, followed by the ARS Anthem by Lydia Der Vartanian, accompanied by Tom Der Vartanian.
Sonia Peltekian, Regional Executive Chair, introduced the following guests: Very Rev. Muron Aznikian, representing the Prelate, His Eminence Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian; ARS Central Executive Representative, Nova Hindoyan; ARF Central Committee Representative, John Kossakian; Deputy Consul General of the Republic of Armenia, Sahag Sarkisyan, and the Consular office Community Relations Representative Armine Balian; ACF Executive Director Mourad Topalian; and ARS Program Director of the Psychological Outreach Program in Armenia, Dr. Armen Geonjian. Ara Malazian of the ARF Armen Karo Gomideh was also present.
Opening prayers were said by the Very Rev. Muron Aznikian, who was joined by Forty Martyrs Church pastor Rev. Fr. Hrant Yeretsian. Then, Very Rev. Muron read His Eminence’s message commending the ARS and wishing success of the Convention, and his prayers to extend God’s protection and guidance to the ARS members so that their services to the people will withstand challenges and move forward with enthusiasm and vigor.
Peltekian officially opened the Convention, welcomed and thanked everyone, especially the hosting “Karni” chapter, and described the process through which the Convention evaluates the past year’s activities and sets forth a path for the future.
ARS Central Executive Representative Nova Hindoyan, presented CE’s message and greetings for a successful Convention. She noted the importance of rejuvenating and revitalizing ARS with younger members, and stabilizing its financial base through ARS Centennial Fund contributions.
ARF Central Committee representative John Kossakian just returned from Javakhk and passed on the message of thanks from the youth at the ARS-funded renovated Youth Center in Akhaltsekha. He called for strategic planning in the organization, chapters to revitalize and professionalize their membership, to enhance communication with other community organizations, and stressed that the Convention determine current priorities based on needs and pursue grants to meet those needs.
Vice Consul General, Sahag Sargisyan congratulated the ARS for its many great accomplishments in Javakhk, Artsakh and Armenia, and the Diaspora, and was sure that in the next Century, the ARS will be an even more organized and powerful women’s organization.
The ARS Voice TV program anchor, Sona Madarian, a guest of the Convention on behalf of the Regional Executive, conveyed a moving message. She said that it is not just an honor to be a guest of the Convention, but being an ARS member. She added that with honor comes responsibilities, and that ARS members have a responsibility as one family to think with clarity and fairness to pursue our holy duty towards our people and our organization.
Concluding the opening ceremonies, Dr. Armen Goenjian, ARS Program Director of the Psychological Outreach Program in Armenia, noted the role that the ARS of Western USA played in helping the earthquake victims in Armenia, how the counseling services changed to accommodate the changing needs of the population, then provided a glimpse of juvenile and youth issues threatening local families and his vision of what role the AR S could play in services to help those families.
Sonia Peltekian, Regional Executive Chair called to order the first session of the Convention, following the opening ceremonies. The election of the officers took place. Asdghig Tejirian was elected as chairperson for Armenian and Angela Savoian was elected as chairperson for English. Rita Hintlian and Seta Martir were elected as secretaries for Armenian, and Nazik Arisian and Satenig Kassabian were elected secretaries for English.
Twenty-one chapters from “Anahid” to “Zovinar” and forty-nine delegates were present from San Francisco to San Diego, Phoenix, Arizona to Houston Texas, in addition to the ARS CE Representative, Nova Hindoyan, nine-member Regional Executive, guests and dozens of observers. The invited guests of the Convention were ARF Central Committee Representative John Kossakian, ACF Executive Director Mourad Topalian, Sona Madarian, Khatoune Pakradouni, Shoushan Plotkin, Rima Boghossian, Nora Shirikian, Nanik Kupelian, and Annik Zindarzian.
ACF Executive Director, Mourad Topalian, provided his perspective of the difficulties and the political challenges that the social services faced during the past year and how the political will of the community was utilized to help secure funding. He advised the ARS to implement strategic planning in order to think of new opportunities and improve existing programs.
The Convention elected Credentials Examining, Nominating, Auditing and Budgeting, Correspondence, and Resolutions Committees. The Convention Officers appointed Khatoune Pakradouni as Parliamentarian, Rita Hintlian as Convention Reporter and three “Karni” Chapter members as Sergeant-at-Arms, Eliz Guiragossian, Sona Daghlian and Lina Tufenkjian.
The Regional Executive’s annual report was read by Sonia Peltekian, the Social Services annual report was read by Director, Sona Zinzalian, and social services financial report by Assistant Director, Louise Guirjian. Later, Accountant/Controller Jasik Jarahian presented the financial report on PowerPoint for all 26 chapters, Saturday Schools, Arefian scholarships, Centennial, Javakhk and Armenia-Artsakh Funds, and the Regional Executives activities. The ARS CE’s annual report was presented by Nova Hindoyan.
Questions, discussions, evaluations, and suggestions for the next year followed over the next three days, as Convention Committees presented their own reports, and the Auditing and Finance Committee requested to have Jasik Jarahian present the proposed budget. This year, no new by-laws changes were approved, but several were submitted as new suggestions for review by the chapters during the upcoming year. Resolutions were passed to declare March as membership month, continue efforts to help the Armenia’s of Iraq, tele/video-conferencing, legal assistance, broaden counseling services, pay closer attention to Proposition 63 guidelines and gran’s, raise membership dues to reflect rates in other organizations, to conduct strategic planning and leadership seminars.
A written invitation from the “Shogher” Houston Chapter delegate was presented to the Convention to hold the 88th Convention in Houston, Texas. The Regional Executive will take this invitation into consideration in deciding next year’s site.
The following members were elected for 2-year terms on the Regional Executive: Maida Bezdjian, Rima Boghossian, Sirarpi Chakalian, Seta Martir and Serpouhie Messerlian. The following members were elected as alternates: Nanik Kupelian, Arpy Tokmajian, Maro Papazian, Vicky Marashlian, and Rina Der Alexanian.
Following the end of the Convention, the ARS Central Executive Representative, Nova Hindoyan, Convention Co-Chairs Angela Savoian and Asdghig Tejirian, Convention Secretaries Nazik Arisian, Rita Hintlian, Satenig Kassabian and Seta Martir, and newly elected and Regional Executive members with another year left in their terms met, and Regional Executive officers were elected as follows:
Sonia Peltekian, Chair; Seda Khojayan, Vice-Chair; Rima Boghossian, Treasurer; Seta Martir, Secretary; and Maida Bezdjian, Sona Bostanian, Sirarpi Chakalian, Serpouhie Messerlian and Nevart Mooradian as Advisers.
On July 14, during the dinner dance organized by the Karni Chapter, welcoming remarks were made by Araxy Aykanian, who introduced the organizing committee members. Sonia Peltekian, Regional Executive Chair, recognized the five Regional Executive members who completed their 2-year terms, and presented them with recognition plaques. They were Rose Altounian, Karine Barikian-Setian, Kristine Keshishian, Hourig Aintablian, and Adrine Postoyan.
On behalf of the Regional Executive, Peltekian presented recognition plaques to Mike Shahinian for his efforts in editing the ARS Voice Program, Rita Hintlian for her volunteer work (Volunteer of the Year), and Jasik Jarahian for her exceptional fundraising effort for the Armenia-Artsakh Orphans’ Fund. Jarahian said that she has worked for the ARS as her family, not as an employee, which is much more productive.
Several first-time delegates were truly excited for having made a difference and the new friendships that they made. Delegates returned to their chapters and communities with renewed enthusiasm to implement the new projects and continue the ongoing services of their beloved Armenian Relief Society.