LAS VEGAS—Asbarez sat down with Las Vegas St. Garabed Church Parish Priest Rev. Father Avedis Torossian and the Parish Council Chair Adroushan Armenian and Construction Committee members, Levon Gulbenkian and Koko Darakjian to discuss the progress in the church construction and estimated completion date.
Asbarez: What are the roots of St. Garabed Church in Las Vegas?
St. Garabed: There has been an Armenian community in Las Vegas dating back to the 1950’s. However a significant number of Armenians relocated from Southern California to Las Vegas in the early 1990’s, particularly after the 1994 Northridge earthquake.
We have several photos of church services being held at the home of Chuck and Sue Merlian dating back to 1994. The Merlian family had donated a painting of Baby Jesus and Mother of Christ in 1994 which we have been using on our altar for all these years.
The Western Prelacy has been providing spiritual services to the community for many years, in coordination with a committee comprised of local community members who was the bridge between the Prelacy and the Armenian population. In 2006, under the auspices of Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, the Las Vegas Armenian community was re-organized and revitalized with the official appointment of a Parish Council to oversee the needs of the growing community. In 2010, Archpriest Fr. Avedis Torossian was assigned as the full-time Pastor for the parish community.
It was in May of 2010 when our church was officially named “St. Garabed” in memory of Seda Der Garabedian-Barnes and the Der Garabedian family ancestors who perished during the 1915 Armenian Genocide.
Asbarez: How big is the Armenian community in Las Vegas and tell us about the church community?
St. Garabed: There are no exact numbers, however the community is estimated to be six to eight thousand strong. We have around 100 Armenian families who actively participate in various community events, and now that the church structure is visible we are seeing more and more Armenians emerging and participating in church services and functions.
Asbarez: Tell us when you started the Church building initiative and where do you currently stand.
St. Garabed: Having our own Armenian Church in Las Vegas was always in our prayers, and in December of 2009 we were fortunate and blessed to purchase the property located at 2054 East Desert Inn Road.
With the guidance of the Prelate, and after consultations with the Executive Council and Prelacy Building Committee Chairman Mr. Vahan Bezdikian, we split our construction project into three phases based on their input.
Phase one was to renovate the two story existing building so that we could immediately start using it as a temporary church and cultural and community center. This first phase was completed by April 1, 2010.
During phase two we started developing plans to demolish the existing one story building and replace it with the new church structure. After finalizing architectural and engineering drawings and obtaining the required permits, we started the actual construction work on August 26, 2012. We anticipate phase two to be completed by mid-February of 2013 by obtaining our occupancy permit.
Phase three will be to remodel the second floor of the cultural center building to accommodate the growing need of the Saturday School and the community. We anticipate to complete this project during the summer of 2013.
Asbarez: How did you manage funding the construction project?
St. Garabed: The construction project was made possible thanks primarily to benefactor Mr. Larry Barnes and his generous donation in memory of his wife, Seda Der Garabedian Barnes, and by Mr. Kirk Kerkorian’s UCLA Dream Fund donation and “Matching Fund Challenge”. We are grateful to them both for their benevolence.
We also developed a list of “Sponsorship and Naming” opportunities for our church construction needs. News spread quickly and we received numerous donations from local community members and also several out of state donations. A detailed list with corresponding plaques will be placed in the church lobby at a later date.
It is important to highlight that we had several individuals make donations in memory of their loved ones with the names Garabed, Garo or Hovhannes, after the name of our church “St. Garabed”. Out of those donations we would like to highlight a generous donation from the Los Angeles based “Armenian Compatriotic Union of Guesaria” which sponsored our church lobby. The significance of this donation is in memory of the historic St. Garabed Monastery of Guesaria that was completely destroyed by Turkish authorities after the 1915 Armenian Genocide.
Asbarez: What are the remaining challenges to complete your project?
St. Garabed: We are fortunate that we did not come across serious problems during our construction phase, and we expect to finish our project within six months of our start date.
Currently the structure is complete and we are working to finish the interior including the pews, altars, candle stands, and stained glass windows. Our objective is to have all of these completed by Sunday, March 24th, which coincides with Palm Sunday.
The only challenge for us is to continue with our fundraising efforts and to meet our Dream Fund “Matching Fund Challenge” which will end on February 28, 2013. For those who are not familiar with this fundraising challenge, the concept is that whatever funds we raise between September 1, 2012 and February 28, 2013, the Dream Fund at UCLA will match that amount as an additional donation.
We appeal to all those interested in making a donation to consider the following list of sponsorship and naming opportunities in memory of their loved ones, specifically:
Side Altar $10,000
Church Side Door $5,000
Stained Glass Windows Large (x 4) $5,000
Stained Glass Windows Small (x 5) $3,000
Altar Curtain $5,000
Priest Office $5,000
Choir Room $5,000
Church Icons Large Serpanegar (x 6) $4,000
Church Icons Small Serpanegar (x 12) $2,000
Individual Pew/Bench Seats (Each seat $500; 60 seats are currently available)
Donations may be sent to: St. Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church of Las Vegas; 2054 East Desert Inn Road, Las Vegas, NV 89169