Worcester ARS Thinking Green

Think green!

That’s the buzzword circulating about the Worcester ARS these days as the chapter approaches the holidays.

It could be the color of money. Or the color of a Christmas tree, wreath, or some other horticultural object.

In the case of these “Knar” members, it happens to be green tote bags with the inscription “Armenians Go Green.”

You’ve got to hand it to these women for being innovative in their fundraising efforts. They had so much success with this brainchild a year ago, they’ve brought it back by popular demand.

The question remains, which do we use? The ACAA Heritage Cruise has the tote bag market pretty well cornered with its tricolor motif. I recall one year when 1,800 Armenians booked the cruise and each was presented a red, blue, and orange tote bag upon arrival.

Imagine landing on one of those Caribbean Islands and walking through St. Thomas with 1,800 tricolor bags festooned along the streets. Because we took two trips, my wife and I have four of these tote bags between us and we use them for every occasion.

It’s a dead give-away whenever two Armenians handling these tote bags meet in the street or at some conference. The conversation invariably turns to the cruise.

In some cases, people who’ve been on the cruise with their spouse 12 times have 24 red, blue, and orange bags stuffed away in the closet.

Mine compete heavily with a blue and white bag bearing the logo “Parev.” This conjures up discussion in the odar world, begging the question, “What does that mean?”

It certainly warrants an explanation about a language that dates back more than 16 centuries. And I can’t think of a better way of introducing some culture and history to an outside population.

Now we have Armenians going green. With all due respect to the Armenian Tree Project (ATP), which hovers around the 4 million mark with trees planted in Armenia, this project is also in harmony with saving the environment.

The flyer is an obvious eye-catcher. It arrived in green with an order form. Each bag goes 13 inches wide, 15 inches high, and 10 inches deep with a logo of a tree.

“Tired of the same old bag? Be a trend-setter,” the letter states. “Be the first on your block to show your Armenian pride.”

Much as I disdain fundraisers, especially around the Christmas season, this one gives you something special for your money. The ARS has issued its appeal to other chapters with hopes of earning some income. All proceeds will benefit their humanitarian efforts.

Among those initiating the drive is Carol Jaffarian, an ARS catalyst who also serves on the Eastern Region Committee.

It warms the cockles of my heart when I see smaller chapters like Worcester taking a gargantuan step forward. In a community looking to reorganize its AYF and ARF chapters, leave it to the ARS to keep the spirit mobile.

Worcester represents one of the earliest chapters in the United States and is home to the first Armenian Church erected in America. As you may be aware, the organization is celebrating its centennial this year and the “Knar” Chapter was very much in the mix.

Many of its existing members are the children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of its founders. After World War II, the chapter became involved in George Mardikian’s ANCHA program. The community welcomed displaced families into their homes until appropriate housing was found.

The chapter has donated Armenian books to the Worcester Public Library and takes an active stand in commemorating the genocide each year. Members have conducted blood drives and fostered humanitarian aid to Armenia. Five orphans are being sponsored in the homeland.

They’ve honored Massachusetts veterans and donated money to Abby’s House which provides emergency and long-term housing for homeless, battered, and low-income women with or without children. Scholarships are provided to Camp Haiastan for active young Armenians in the community.

The Jaffarian name remains a staple with this chapter. Carol’s sister Laura has chaired the group. Their membership does not equate to a Detroit or Boston but you’ve got to give them credit. They get the job done.

I suppose we can all pitch a hand and help save the environment by purchasing a bag for each hand, whether to facilitate our shopping, transport our beach wares, or simply show the world that Armenia is thinking green.

It’s far better than turning blue this Christmas season.

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian

Tom Vartabedian is a retired journalist with the Haverhill Gazette, where he spent 40 years as an award-winning writer and photographer. He has volunteered his services for the past 46 years as a columnist and correspondent with the Armenian Weekly, where his pet project was the publication of a special issue of the AYF Olympics each September.
Tom Vartabedian

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