CHART HOUSE, N.J.—With a stunning view of the New York City skyline in the background, a group of dedicated women held a successful luncheon on Thursday afternoon, May 16, at New Jersey’s famed Chart House Restaurant located on the Hudson River. The event was to benefit the Children’s Center of Yerevan, a major project of the Fund for Armenian Relief (FAR), where abused, abandoned, trafficked children from ages 3-18 are cared for with devoted support, professional therapy, and boundless love.
More than 130 enthusiastic supporters attended, including Honorary Chairperson Sirvart Hovnanian, whose husband Kevork Hovnanian was one of the founders, chairman, and lifetime honorary chairman of the Fund for Armenian Relief. It was organized by the Friends of the Fund for Armenian Relief’s Children’s Center, a group of 14 selfless New Jersey women who started a committee a few years ago following the request of Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Primate of the Diocese (Eastern), to help in this very crucial endeavor. The Chart House event began with warm welcoming remarks by Committee co-chairperson Sylva Torosian, who related that each time the committee ladies had a function, such as a birthday or baby shower, the donations were given to the Children’s Center instead of used for personal gifts. “Our children are our future, and you can make it possible, one child at a time,” she said.
Archbishop Yeghishe Gizirian delivered the invocation, and read an inspiring message from the Primate who was unable to attend due to his presence at a meeting in Etchmiadzin. “Since its inception in 2000, the FAR Children’s Center has truly lived up to its mission, leading the way in the area of child protection in the capital city of Yerevan, and creating a safe haven for our homeland’s most vulnerable children,” the Primate’s message read. “Thousands of formerly ‘at-risk’ children have discovered care, affection, encouragement, and dignity through the Children’s Center. Their transformed lives are the measure of the center’s success, and the result of your generous support.”
In her thoughtful remarks, Annette Choolfaian, FAR vice-chairperson, recounted the situation of Armenia’s children in the late 1990’s, which led to the creation of the Center. “The police took children, many walking in the streets with no home, and threw them in a room like an akhor (hovel). And so the FAR Children’s Center was born with the support of the FAR Board of Directors and Archbiship Khajag Barsamian, thereby changing the future of Armenia’s most vulnerable children. The hovel was developed into a caring and loving home,” she stated with emphasis.
Since 2000, the center has helped 7,000 children, and child protection laws have been enacted. “One can see the dramatic changes in a child a month or two later,” Choolfaian said, adding that “Armenia has gone through great shock affecting people, but especially the children who are the recipients of a positive or negative future. And this year a major program has been started by FAR affecting poverty in a whole village, with a full infrastructure program.” Concluding her remarks, she said with obvious emotion, “Stay with us and help us. It is crucial for the future of Armenia.”
In a brief message, Garnik Nanagoulian, the executive director of the Fund for Armenian Relief, expressed appreciation to the Primate, to Sirvart Hovnanian, to the co-chairs of the Friends of the Children’s Center, Silva Torosian and Nadia Gharibian, and to all the supporters of this vital project. The occasion concluded with the benediction by Very Rev. Fr. Papken Anoushian, pastor of St. Thomas Armenian Church in Tenafly, N.J.
The event also included a fashion show, dubbed “Posh Boutique,” presented by Linda Gezdir, and featured the latest fashions by a group of young Armenian women, as well as a silent auction of lovely gifts donated by the members of the Friends of the FAR Children’s Center. Also participating and donating a percentage of their sales for the Children’s Center were the owners of the following booths: chocolates (La Vie En Chocolat, Ani Aghjayan), jewelry (Paris, Talin Medzadourian; Atlantis Jewelry, Arsham and Arakel Bekarian; Chanour, Sebastian & Chanour), and jeweled handbags (Hana Bag, Jacob).
The Yerevan Children’s Center is the only institution in Armenia that performs crisis intervention and rehabilitation. The center is also a national full service facility where children and their families can access shelter, counseling, outreach service, healthcare, and legal assistance.
In 2012, the Fund for Armenian Relief and the Friends of the Children’s Center in Armenia sponsored their first major function for the Children’s Center at the Diocese of the Armenian Church in New York, with Dr. Mira Antonyan, the director of the Children’s Center, attending and leading the event. The next major function for the center will take place on the evening of Sat., Nov. 9, at the Armenian Diocese in New York. Tickets will be available in September. For more information, call (212) 889-5150.