By Vickie Markarian
SAN FRANCISCO–The Oakland Erepouni Chapter of the Armenian Relief Society celebrated its 70th anniversary on Sunday–October 17–with an afternoon program at the Saroyan Hall in San Francisco. Special guests from the community included Rev. Fr. Avedis Torossian of St. Gregory Armenian Apostolic Church–Serpouhi Messerlian from the ARS Western Region Executive Board–Maida Bezdjian from the San Francisco ARS Garin Chapter–among others.
The program’s emcee Araxie Boghossian–invited Rev. Fr. Torossian to open the evening with a prayer–followed by the Erepouni Chapter’s chairlady Annie Tatarian–who spoke briefly of the chapter’s various activities over the past years.
ARS Western US Regional Executive Board Member Serpouhi Messerlian–praised the good works of the Erepouni Chapter–especially their weekly Armenian school and adopted school in Armenia. She also presented the chapter with a plaque on behalf of the Western Region–which read: "It is with great pleasure that we congratulate you on your 70th anniversary and wish you success in your future endeavors. Erepouni Chapter is one of the Western Region’s most industrious and energetic chapters and has supported the Regional Committee every year in its helpful work to our nation."
Keynote speaker Dr. Margit Hazarabedian–an auxiliary member of the Erepouni Chapter–offered a stirring and nostalgic account of the beginnings of the ARS in the Bay Area and of their wonderful work following World War II–when both the San Francisco and Oakland chapters strived to help displaced Armenia’s in camps overseas–and then brought them to this country through ANCHA (American National Committee for Homeless Armenia’s). Weaving her own family’s hardships during that time–she recalled the names of the dedicated founders and early members of the Erepouni Chapter who gave so much of their time and effort. She stressed that these selfless women’saved many Armenian families.
One of the highlights of the program came when Vickie Markarian introduced eight former exceptional students of the Erepouni Chapter’s Friday Armenian School who have either gone on to university or to the work force. The students honored were Armine Avanessians–Alex Bunch–Tamar Kozanian–Arpy Mikaelian–Kohar Shirikian–Vrej Tajirian–Hovig Tatarian–and Ani Tejirian. Markarian called each student to stage and presented them with a Certificate of Appreciation. The audience truly appreciated seeing these young people recognized in this way and gave each heartfelt applause. The program came to a lively end as The Mazmanians played a rousing version of "Ghapama."
Rev. Fr. Torossian also felt compelled to offer his own words of gratitude. He stated that the ladies of the ARS deserve the thanks of all our people. In addition to caring for their own families and often working outside the home–they have taken on the task of helping their fellow Armenia’s–both within the community and in Armenia. The memorable evening ended with a moving candle-lighting ceremony.