PASADENA—The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Western U.S.A., 92nd Annual Regional Convention was held on July 27-29 at the new Pasadena Armenian Center in Pasadena, California, to assess the activities of the past year and plan for the upcoming year.
Delegates and guests from 23 chapters arrived from the San Francisco Bay area and as far away as Phoenix, Arizona, and made their way to the foyer, where the ARS-WUSA Regional Executive and Sosse Chapter (Pasadena) members welcomed them.
Dr. Nyree Derderian, Regional Executive Chairperson, called the convention to order in the converted gym of the center. Following anthems, officer elections were held. Khatoune Pakradouni and Sossie Djabrayan were elected as co-chairs, and Mayda Chahinian and Rita Hintlian as Secretaries. Following the presentation by the Credentials Committee, Maggie Yahyayan and Victoria Markarian joined as second secretaries for Armenian and English respectively.
During the first session, which was attended by the ARS Central Executive Board (CEB) Chairperson, Vicky Marashlian, CEB’s Representative Annie Kechichian delivered her board’s message. Looking forward to the future with great expectations, she noted that the ARS is at the forefront of a new era and the convention will determine the path to follow, as a demonstration of the will of its members. She stated that free Armenia struggles with societal shortcomings, victorious Artsakh continues to be threatened, Javakhk continues to struggle with worsening socio-economic conditions, while different Diaspora regions face difficult economic and safety conditions. She said that the CEB would like to see this meeting advance in spirited, yet practical; brave, yet well thought out ways—so that not only ARS members will gather around the region, but also the community as a whole, and particularly the youth. Kechichian also read the CEB report of their activities since the 70th International Convention held in October 2011 in Athens, Greece.
Dr. Vicken Yacoubian, delivered the ARF-WR Central Committee’s message, challenging the ARS to accomplish philanthropy driven by activism; to connect to the people by understanding their needs; to carry the heavy burden of meeting those needs. He wished that the convention’s decisions would bring new vigor to the ARS, and renew its ranks with youth.
Arch. Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America, was accompanied by the Executive Council Chairperson, Rima Boghossian. The Prelate delivered his message and blessings for strength and vigor to persevere for the delegates, and wished for divine wisdom and guidance. His Eminence remarked that the ARS has nurtured and cared for the needs of the Armenian people, just as a doting mother would, and has been instrumental in the progress and prosperity of our homeland through the efforts and selfless service of its dedicated and devoted members, who humbly serve to carry out its noble humanitarian mission.
The officers appointed Annie Chalian as Parliamentarian, Rita Hintlian as Reporter, and Arshalouys Kiledjian and Alice Shekherdemian as Sergeant-at-Arms. Annie Chalian and Sossie Poladian were Regional guests, while Satenig Ghazarian, Helen Keosian, Anahid Meymarian and Asdghig Tejirian, were guests elected by the convention to provide their valuable input. The convention continued with the election of committees, presentations and assessment of regional programs.
During the three days, the convention discussed the services, which were provided by the region. Five social services offices, and the Child, Youth and Family Guidance Center served the needy, elderly and those with counseling needs. Chapters operated one-day or Saturday Schools for those children who lack access to Armenian day schools, along with one day care. The region continued to support two youth centers in Javakhk, two ARS Sosse Kindergartens in Artsakh, 123 orphans through the Sponsor-A-Child program and the Educational program for former orphans, who live mostly in Hadroud, Askaran and Mardouni. A video of photos of major events, during the past year, entertained and excited the delegates and observers.
The convention commended good planning and carrying out of innovative programs, assessed where improvements were needed, and decided to boost certain programs, within the guidelines of the Strategic Plan already in effect for the last two years. The convention highly commended the Regional Executive for continuing programs during a challenging fiscal environment.
The convention split up into break-out sessions to develop new ideas, before they were brought to the convention floor. Sheltering, Saturday School Education Fund, and assistance to Armenian schools in Syria were allocated more funding, due to the increased concern for the status of children. Other resolutions were regarding sustainable funding, promoting the ARS through Public Relations, and membership development.
One of the guests commented on how the delegates endured long-lasting sessions with outmost diligence. The hosting Pasadena Sosse Chapter members catered to the needs of the attendees during the 3-days, by providing good nutritious foods throughout the day and entertainment in the evening. The chapter members even brought “mas” (holy bread) from the Sunday services.
Following a report by ARS CEB Representative, Annie Kechichian, the convention decided and formed an ad hoc committee to raise funds for the Armenians in Syria, in addition to collecting payments and pledges amounting to $18,050 from the floor.
Four members of the Regional Executive had completed their 2-year terms: Nyree Derderian, Kristine Keshishian, Carmen Libaridian and Seta Hagopian-Soghomonian. The Convention elected Lena Bozoyan, Christina Khanjian, Carmen Libaridian, and Karine Barikian-Setian.
Vicky Marashlian, ARS CEB Chairperson, congratulated the convention for its smooth performance and the newly elected board members. The ARF Central Committee representative, Dr. Vicken Yacoubian, reminded the members that he was the Secretary staffer of the ARS Regional Executive, while he was attending the university. He congratulated the newly elected board members, wished the whole ARS family success in their endeavors, promising support and assistance to collectively achieve the goals of our people.
In closing statements, Khatoune Pakradouni, Convention Co-Chair, remarked on how the ARS had reinvented and revitalized itself through several generations, how her generation felt about accomplishing their duty, and how satisfied they felt by realizing their dreams and witnessing the new generation joining the ranks to accomplish new dreams.
The ARS continues to weave dreams for the Diaspora and the Homeland, with the financial assistance and support of the community members.
Support the Armenian community in Syria by donating by credit card or PayPal at www.arswestusa.org/donate, through a chapter, or sending your check to ARS of Western U.S.A., Regional Executive, 517 W. Glenoaks Blvd., Glendale, CA 91202-2812.