BY ANI MELKONYAN
MARGAHOVIT, Armenia—Armenia Tree Project opened the Charles G. Bilezikian Greenhouse in Margahovit, a village in the Lori Province. Attending the opening ceremony on June 15 were the Bilezikian family of Boston, ATP Executive Director Jeanmarie Papelian and team, the Deputy Governor of Lori, the Head of Margahovit community, Margahovit school principal, and guests.
The greenhouse complex is situated beside the Michael and Virginia Ohanian Center for Environmental Studies, where more than 2,000 students are hosted annually. Features include a 250 square meter experimental greenhouse, a two-story building, and ATP’s first outdoor classroom.
The outdoor classroom will advance ATP’s environmental education programs and enable children to increase their practical knowledge of the environment. As a green space for active learning, it creates the opportunity to experience nature up close and personal so that students may value and come to love it. Students will build new skills, try their hands out at gardening, and actively monitor the progress of their work. They will also be able to do research projects and explore the ecosystems and biodiversity they find in their surroundings.
“Our students are ecstatic about this new space! We envision our outdoor trainings leading to the creation of similar green areas in schools where our students and teachers come from. This will greatly contribute to peer-to-peer education in communities,” said Kristine Hovsepyan, Environmental Education Program Manager.
The new experimental greenhouse will enable ATP to grow healthier trees for forestry plantings and increase tree survival rates. The greenhouse has the capacity to produce around 30,000 seedlings annually. It is supported by the adjacent building, which includes a laboratory for seed quality testing, a storage room for seeds and plants, and a third room for staff. The upstairs floor serves as lodging, where visitors can spend the night and enjoy the magic Lori has to offer.
“ATP was one of Chuck’s favorite non-profits. He would be pleased to know that the greenhouse was built and that it is being dedicated to him. He always appreciated a good landscape. He would have been thrilled to participate in greening a country,” said Doreen Bilezikian, wife of the late Charles G. Bilezikian.
The greenhouse complex was gifted to ATP in memory of Charles G. Bilezikian, who was the son of Armenian immigrants from the Boston area. With his wife Doreen, Charles developed a successful business known as the Christmas Tree Shops. He was a generous philanthropist who loved Armenia and had a special place in his heart for Armenia Tree Project’s mission—to use trees to improve the standard of living in Armenia. After his death in 2016, Charles’ wife and sons, Gregory and Jeffrey, decided to honor his commitment to a green Armenia by sponsoring this project in his memory.
“We are so grateful to the Bilezikian Family for funding this project as it will not only create new learning opportunities for our students and help develop Margahovit community, but also enhance the quality of our forests,” said Executive Director Jeanmarie Papelian.
Armenia Tree Project has planted more than 5,700,000 trees since its inception in 1994. It is one of the major tree planting programs in the country and in its 25 years has successfully established four nurseries, two environmental education centers, and has greened community areas in every province of Armenia, as well as in Artsakh. Throughout this process, the organization has provided employment for hundreds of people and provided vital resources to thousands of village residents. For more information visit the website.