GLENDALE—For the Armenian Relief Society of Western USA (ARS-WUSA) members and supporters, the weekend of April 5 to 7 gave great cause to celebrate. The announcements of $250,000 in pledges and donations and the honoring of 46 ARS volunteers created a very festive mood at the Gala on Friday, April 5.
There was a chance to acknowledge the consistent and loyal support of long-time members, some serving in the ARS for as long as 50 years, at Saturday’s Member Appreciation Day festivities. And there was the opportunity to take stock of accomplishments and be reminded of the roots of the organization and its mission during ARS Day on Sunday.
The April 5 Gala, held at the Glendale Hilton Hotel, was attended by 550 people. Dignitaries, public officials and community association leaders included Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Congressman Adam Schiff (CA 28th District), Senator Carol Liu (25th Senate District), ARS Central Executive Board members Annie Kechichian and Rosie Bedrossian, California State Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (District 46), City of Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Krekorian (District 2), newly re-elected Glendale City Councilmember Ara Najarian and Glendale City Treasurer Rafi Manoukian.
Schiff congratulated the ARS “for serving the most vulnerable amongst us with compassion, dedication and a great heart.” He made the most cogent remark about the humanitarian organization, whose membership is almost entirely women. “The ARS confirms what I have always wondered about the Armenian community: that Armenian men are strong and together they can move mountains; but Armenian women can move the entire world,” said Schiff.
Leading a call to ARS members to “renew our oath in service of the Armenian people,” Lena Bozoyan, ARS Regional Executive Chairperson, noted the dire situation being faced by the Syrian Armenians, and the continuing needs in Armenia, Artsakh and Javakhk. She thanked the ARS sponsors and donors for their help in meeting those needs, particularly Mr. & Mrs. Sam and Suzanna Solakyan, who were the Major Banquet Sponsors ($20,000), and Mr. and Mrs. Harry and Cheryl Najarian, who were Diamond sponsors ($10,000). Recalling a recent meeting with Mr. Solakyan, Bozoyan explained his enthusiasm about contributing to the work of the ARS. In addition, Bozoyan recognized Antranig Baghdassarian of Karoun Dairies, with an ARS Legacy Award. Baghdassarian had pledged $100,000 in honor of his wife Seta, toward an endowment fund for battered women.
ARS chapters had selected 44 members to be honored at the Gala for their volunteer accomplishments during the past year, and the Regional Executive honored two additional members for their volunteer efforts, Dr. Nyree Derderian and Rita Hintlian. Bozoyan said both honorees unconditionally serve the ARS and sister organizations and are inspiring role models and committed “HOM-ouhies”. She noted that Dr. Derderian, the former ARS-WUSA Regional Executive Chairperson, who is a parliamentarian, has shared her knowledge of parliamentary procedures and prepared a handbook for new members. Bozoyan lauded Rita Hintlian, chair of the ARS Public Relations committee and an integral member of the ARS Day committee, for enriching the ARS with her technological and organizational knowledge. Congressman Adam Schiff issued Certificates of Special Congressional Recognition to both honorees in recognition of outstanding and invaluable service to the community. Derderian and Hintlian also received Certificates of Recognition from California Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian (District 46).
Bozoyan proudly unveiled the redesigned ARS-WUSA website, which is now accessible from multiple platforms and browsers (www.arswestusa.org). She praised the ARS volunteers and staff for their hard work throughout the year, and acknowledged the volunteers of the Gala committee, headed by ARS-WUSA General Manager Jasik Jarahian.
Welcoming remarks were made by Grigor Ogaryan, a poet and artist, and Janet Shamilian, a former ARS Intern, who is graduating from USC and interning with Congressman Adam Schiff.
Tenor Raffi Kerbabian sang the national and ARS anthems, with Hovsep Torrosian, accompanying him on the piano.
Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian delivered the invocation, praying for the ARS family. The Prelate congratulated the ARS 103rd anniversary and honorees, praised the role and the vital mission of the ARS in the survival, advancement and overall welfare of the Armenian people, and noted that His Holiness Catholicos Aram I has dedicated 2013 to the Armenian Mothers.
The program continued with performance of “Torna a Sorento” and “Hayastan” by Tenor Raffi Kerbabian and a recitation by Ogaryan. Entertainment was provided by Arbi Gharibian and Lou Varoujan Band. A candle lighting ceremony by sponsors concluded the festive program.
The event sponsors, donors, and friends of the ARS raised $100,000 during the program, and the silent auction. That, together with the Baghdassarian pledge and an announcement by Councilmember Paul Krekorian of $50,000 in grant money to an ARS Social Services office in North Hollywood, brought the total to $250,000 in funds for the ARS.
The Armenian Relief Society of Western USA, established in 1984 and with regional headquarters in Glendale, CA, has 27 chapters and more than 1,500 members in five western states. The ARS-WUSA operates a Social Services Division and Child, Youth, and Family Guidance Center, and funds numerous youth programs, scholarships, and relief efforts. For further information, please visit www.arswestusa.org or call 818.500.1343.