TORRANCE, Calif.—An Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Chapter literally founded overnight in 1964 by a group of 8 mothers who got together for play dates with their children celebrated its 50th anniversary on Nov. 1 in Torrance. Almost 200 people attended the 50th anniversary gala of the ARS of Western USA Arax Chapter to celebrate the success the chapter has had over five decades in keeping the Armenian spirit alive in the South Bay.
Arax Chapter Chairperson Azniv Goenjian, in her welcoming remarks, emphasized the importance of the ARS and the significance of the Arax Chapter in the South Bay. “Our small chapter has held this community together with our weekly Friday school and many social and cultural events. This school has been the thread that has linked us through generations,” said Goenjian, concluding, “Our children have had a very solid Armenian foundation because of this organization and its values and traditions.”
Knar Manjikian, who was a founding member of the chapter, recalled how the chapter was born. In 1964, the ARS Central Executive Board’s Secretary, Kohar Tölölyan, was visiting from Boston and staying at her home. Knar Manjikian and her husband, Hagop, asked their houseguest about the possibility of starting a chapter in Inglewood. Tölölyan said, “Let me think about it a moment,” then nodded her head in agreement. She delayed her return to Boston by 24 hours, which gave Knar enough time to call seven of the Manjikians’ friends from Kessab or their wives, to gather at her home to launch the Arax Chapter. Their first priority was to start a Saturday School. Later on, the Manjikians moved to the San Fernando Valley, while their friends moved to the Torrance area, taking the Arax Chapter and its thriving Saturday School with them.
Rev. Father Karekin Bedourian, representing Prelate H.E. Moushegh Arch. Mardirossian, congratulated the chapter’s golden anniversary, wishing renewed strength and continued existence.
Maral Matossian, Co-Chairperson of the ARS Regional Executive, acknowledged the dedicated service of all the Arax Chapter members. She also commended the commitment of the Friday school staff, who took on the important responsibilities entrusted to them. She recognized Nevart Barsoumian, the current principal, who has served for decades. Matossian expressed confidence that the chapter will continue to fulfill the ARS mission in the years to come.
The ARS Regional Executive liaison to the chapter, Araxy Aykanian, joined Matossian in presenting Goenjian with a commemorative plaque.
ARF Aram Manoukian Committee chair Raffi Mardirossian also congratulated the chapter, especially the founding members, chapter executive and all who worked hard for the chapter in the last five decades.
To round off the celebration, four of the 8 founding chapter members who attended the banquet –Mireille Megerdichian, Donalee Boujikian, Asdghig Ashkarian and Knar Manjikian – were invited to cut the anniversary cake. A candle lighting ceremony followed as more than 20 women lit candles in memory of their loved ones who served the chapter but are no longer with us. The Arax Chapter’s candle was dedicated to one of the founding members, the late Arpine Sapatjian.
The banquet had a festive air, with attendees in good spirits, particularly with the entertainment provided by the Hosharian Brothers Band.