BY RITA HINTLIAN
Asbarez Orange County Correspondent
SANTA ANA–The Orange County community celebrated the opening of the new Armenian Center on Sunday–June 11. Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian–Western Prelacy Prelate–presided over the ceremonies attended by more than 400 community members–including regional and local representatives of the Armenian Cultural Foundation–Armenian Revolutionary Federation–Armenian Relief Society–Armenian Youth Federation–the Hamazkayin and Homenetmen.
A couple of significant events made the opening ceremonies special. Zohrab Ghazarian who had donated $150,000 for the center hall along with his wife Seta–and worked diligently supervising the construction effort–was awarded the Knight of Cilicia medal by order of His Holiness Aram I–Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia. In addition–during the dinner that followed the ceremonies–the Karageozian and Habeshian families sponsored one of the offices (the ARF Armen Karo office) for $25,000–which helped to propel the event’s fundraising effort to about $50,000 for the evening.
The last couple of weeks had been busy ones at the center. The finishing touches were made to ready the center with a sound system–test the climate controls–move in furniture and trophies–and hang organizational logos–paintings and photographs of those who founded the organizations and whose who perished defending our freedom.
The Armenian Center became into being with a long history. The Armenian Cultural Foundation purchased the first parcel for the center in 1986 (after selling the Costa Mesa facility)–next to the church-school complex which later became the Forty Martyrs Apostolic Armenian Church and the Ari G. Minassian School. The groundbreaking ceremony presided over by the Prelate took place on November 29–1998. Grading the earth started in February 1999 and the building was completed in May 2000. The building has a total of 4,740 square feet–including a hall (1,700 sq. ft.)–game and conference rooms–and 4 offices.
The opening ceremony proceeded from the western main entrance of the building with a flag ceremony conducted by the local Homenetmen Sartarabad Chapter girl and boy scouts. Next–the ribbon cutting ceremony followed as the ribbons at the main entrance doors–the doors to the halls and sponsored offices were cut starting with the Prelate and followed by the representatives of the organizations and the couples sponsoring the particular hall and offices.
At the main lobby–Bishop Mardirossian along with Rev. Hrant Yeretzian conducted a special building blessing ceremony and blessed the water. The blessed water was then sprinkled at the four corners of the offices by the Reverend–the sponsors and members of the organizations with great enthusiasm. The Prelate noted that the day of the opening coincided with Pentecost–and said that his prayers and wishes are for God’s spirit to descend upon all those present to bring much goodness and grace to the center. Spontaneity was abound at the opening ceremonies as the Mer Hayrenik anthem was sung at the main lobby–and later on Meshag Panvor was heard emanating from the ARF office.
The official program included the Yergnayin Dagher duo–Sossi and Salpi Kerkonian played the harp and flute entertaining the public at the Ghazarian Hall reception–where Ara Papzian introduced Assemblymember Lou Correa (67th District)–a long time advocate for education–activist for community affairs–and defender of minority rights. Assemblymember Correa congratulated the community and particularly for building the center in the City of Santa Ana where new development efforts are underway. Noting that as someone with Mexican heritage he appreciated love of family and religion with those present–the Assemblymember said–"it tells me that you have the same interests as I do–which is to make sure that our children grow up to be good productive American citizens." And referring to the Genocide Resolution passed at the State Capitol he added–"your history–your contributions to the world have not gone unnoticed and have not been forgotten."
Seta Hampartzumian–representing the City of Santa Ana Mayor Miguel Pulido–read a proclamation made by the Mayor on the occasion of the center opening–and handed the proclamation to Dr. Garo Agopian.
Later–the crowd walked across the pathway to Gugasian Hall–where entertainment was provided by the Hamazkayin Orange County Chapter "Jebid" (smile) dance group–traditional music was played by the Roupen Haroutiounian Trio–and violinist Hovhannes Meghrikian–soloist Garineh Avakian and Karnig Sarkissian individually performed traditional and folk music and songs.
Aram Madenlian made the opening remarks noting the important milestones of the old and new centers. He read an excerpt from William Saroyan who believed that when two Armenia’s come together "see if they will not create a new Armenia." Madenlian added–"the spirit of a new Armenia has and now continues to flourish and has a new momentum here in Orange County."
The keynote speaker was Dr. Yeghig Konyalian–who was appreciative of such an exceptional opening ceremony–expressed his wishes for bringing life to the center by bringing together the different organizations and educating our youth–completing the church-school-center circle–and continuing on with the mission without fear or fright–despite any obstacles that may appear.
Next–Dr. Garo Agopian expressed his gratitude for all those who participated in the fundraising and committee efforts–and invited the sponsors to receive their plaques. Hrayr and Kohar Jermagian who sponsored the ARS office received their plaque from Maro Papazian; Harout and Kimberly Adessians who sponsored the combined AYF-Hamazkayin office received their plaque from Chris Guldjian; George and Siroon Gemayel received their plaque from Armand Malakian; Joe Ingardia received a plaque on behalf of his brother Sam and himself for their contributions to fund-raisers from Ara Papzian; and Dr. Agopian handed the plaques to ARS Sevan Chapter President Mako Madenlian for the chapter’s $85,000 contributions during the last two years–and to Zohrab and Seta Ghazarian for their sponsorship of the center hall with $150,000.
ARF CC representative Avedis Ispenjian made congratulatory commen’s to the community for a job well done–and remarked that the center is sure to become a place for teaching and sustaining Armenian knowledge and values to the new generations. And on behalf of the CC–he praised Zohrab Ghazarian’s contributions and efforts by presenting him with ARF memorabilia.
Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian commended the completion of the center as an integral part of the church-school complex–and hoped that the opening will spur renewed love–blessings and grace to the community. He congratulated the community and said that the center would not have been built if not for the generosity–sacrifice and sense of responsibility of all those who labored–and spent countless hours and resources to reach this goal. The Prelate said that per the request of the Armenian Cultural Foundation and the concurrence of the Executive Council–he beseeched His Holiness Aram I on behalf of the Ghazarians. He asked Rev. Yeretzian to read the encyclical sent by the Catholicos. The encyclical revealed that Zohrab Ghazarian was awarded the knight of Cilicia title–and later the Prelate presented the medal to Ghazarian.
The program concluded with singer Karnig Sarkissian’s rendition of patriotic Armenian songs–making the opening ceremony a truly memorable event.
The new Armenian Center address follows: Armenian Cultural Foundation–5305 W. McFadden Ave.–Santa Ana–CA 92704.