BY GAREN YEGPARIAN
Since late August, between preparing for the October 6 formal opening with ribbon cuttings and all the niceties, and the November 1 fundraiser, the focus of community activity in Burbank has been BYC and more BYC (the ACF’s new Burbank Youth Center).
Being in the thick of this activity brought back memories and got me thinking. I recall when Boston’s ACEC (Armenian Cultural and Educational Center) was new. Back then, I heard a complaint, something to the effect of “rich folks get these centers started, then, we’re stuck with the grind of having to come up with big sums for mortgage and maintenance”. In New York, maintaining the Armenian center (in whose parking lot the phone company was fond of dumping its extra directories) was also challenging. The San Fernando Valley has been working towards having a community center since time immemorial, and only very recently has secured two smaller scale buildings. We have our schools to maintain (no new ones seem to be in the offing, so there’s no question of purchase/building costs). And we have our least used structures, the churches, often covered in gilt, which attract a very large share of monetary supporters’ attention, a state of affairs that causes many people quite a bit of dissatisfaction.
Meanwhile we have political and programmatic (youth, elderly, cultural, scholarly research) needs that generate a lot of bang-for-the-buck, but lack the sex-appeal of an edifice. Simultaneously, we all recognize the necessity of having a place to call “home” for our communities and everything we do. No one is twisting our collective arm to undertake these large projects, certainly not in Burbank, where we looked and looked, for almost 20 years, until the right property, the right price, and the initial funding all came together. Nevertheless, this part of our work can put quite a strain on those who are doing it.
Often, the same leadership that is working on the political and programmatic end of things gets sucked into the “buildings” aspect of our activity. Guess what suffers in that scenario… As a result, we have fewer results to show to potential financial supporters which then makes it even harder to maintain (forget about expanding) our activism.
The solution to this dilemma is simple, yet tough to implement. Since a vast majority of us recognize the need for these facilities—centers, schools, churches—why not make it easy? When those who are engaged in the fundraising for such a project call their compatriots to ask for money, instead of a runaround, excuses, and minimal giving, why not just say a quick “yes” and give as much as you can (dump Starbucks’ overpriced coffee for a few months, or drive that clunker an extra few weeks). This enables and empowers us all. It allows more rapid growth in our communities’ infrastructure and ability to provide the services needed. Think about it: if instead of every fifth call producing a positive result, what would happen if every other call did?
Please, the next time you’re on the receiving end of one of those “annoying” fundraising call for your local center/school/church, remember how difficult it is to make the dreams a reality and then keep them from slipping away, and quickly say “yes, how much may I donate?”