ARS Eastern USA Holds 91st Regional Convention

Delegates, observers, and guests representing 23 chapters reconnect and renew pledge to support Armenian education, orphans and the needy, locally and abroad.

The participants in the convention

Providence, R.I.–Rebounding from the previous year’s flurry of celebrations marking one hundred years of humanitarian and educational service to Armenians worldwide, the Armenian Relief Society Eastern U.S.A. convened its 91st Regional Convention at the Hilton Providence from July 14-17.

The convention opened with the singing of the ARS Anthem and a welcome address on behalf of the Providence host chapters by Ungh. Taline Mkrtschjian. She invited the clergy to offer the invocation. Rev. Fr. Gomidas Baghsarian, pastor of Sts. Vartanantz Church of Providence offered his prayers for a fruitful convention. On behalf of the ARS E.U.S.A. Regional Board Chairperson Ungh. Silva Kouyoumdjian welcomed the delegates and guests, thanked the Providence ARS Ani and ARS Arax chapters for hosting this year’s convention, and declared the meeting officially open.

The first order of business was the election of convention officers and the Credentials Committee. The following delegates were elected:

Ungh. Ani Gulbenk (Susan Terzian, Fairfield, CT) as English language chairperson

Ungh. Taline Mkrtschjian (Arax, RI) as Armenian language chairperson

Ungh. May Kafafian (Sybille, MI) and Ungh. Linda Chatalian Wyatt (Knar, Worcester, MA) English language secretaries

Ungh. Shoghig Mahserejian (Ani, PA) and Ungh. Noyemi Missayan (Artemis, PA) Armenian language secretaries

Ungh. Margaret Stepanian (Arax, RI) Parliamentarian

Ungh. Maro Nalbandian (Satenig, DC) Sergeant-at-arms

Later the convention elected the Auditing, Correspondence, Nominating, and Resolutions committees to carry out various convention responsibilities.

Messages were offered by Ungh. Angele Manoogian representing the ARF Central Committee, Ungh. Mayda Melkonian representing the ARS Central Executive Board, Unger Armen Topouzian and Ungh Marlene Vichabian, ARS EUSA Guests. They brought their years of community service and knowledge to help guide the convention to the most effective and fruitful utilization of its resources. Both stressed the importance of reaching out to the youth.

An inspiring message was offered on behalf of the Eastern Prelacy by Vicar General Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, who wished the delegates success in their deliberations. He emphasized that the ARS must strive to serve both Diaspora and homeland, to benefit all Armenians.

The chair recognized Ungh. Maral Khatchadurian representing the Homenetmen Regional, who addressed the meeting, thanking the ARS for its support and wishing the meeting success.

Invited to address the delegates was Unger Armen Topouzian, a frequent traveler to Artsakh and a staunch supporter of ARS kindergartens there. He spoke of his life, how he got involved in helping the Armenians in Artsakh, and the many obstacles and challenges of working in the region.

An essential and anticipated part of the convention was the ARS Eastern USA PowerPoint presentation of the Annual Report, presented by Regional Board Secretary Ungh. Carol Jaffarian. Clarifications to questions were provided by Ungh Silva Kouyoumdjian and Board members, liaisons to programs. The report was unanimously accepted and Regional Board members were commended for the past year’s service.

A concise report of the CEB covering the period from 2008 -2011 provided by Ungh. Mayda Melkonian.

In the presence of ARS chapter delegates from all over the Eastern U.S., ARS Regional Board of Directors, invited guests and observers, the ARS embarked on the yearly process of reviewing and evaluating the past year, and charting the course for the 2011-2012 year and beyond.

Regional Board treasurer Ungh. Caroline Chamavonian presented the financial report for the 2010-2011 fiscal year along with the proposed budget for 2011-2012. Questions and clarification were provided as needed. After the review and recommendations of the Auditing Committee the convention approved the budget for the coming year.

Among the concerns raised at the convention was the ability of the ARS to meet the changing needs of Armenians today and in the future, here at home, elsewhere in the Diaspora and in Armenia with new and effective programs. Parallel to these concerns and uppermost in discussions was providing the funds for new as well as existing projects.

A major decision of the delegates was to continue ARS support of Armenian education, especially the network of one-day schools throughout the region. The meeting pledged to continue and enhance its support of the Armenian National Education Committee (ANEC), a joint initiative of the ARS and the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America.

Among other programs to be continued and enhanced were the Mother and Child Clinic and Birthing Center in Akhourian, Armenia, aid to orphans, Camp Haiastan, undergraduate and graduate college scholarships, Youth Connect Program, regional seminars and various other projects.

During the four-day gathering, delegates were given ample opportunity for socializing. The host chapters organized a bus tour of historic Providence on Friday, July 15th during which delegates viewed historic homes, the Roger Williams National Memorial, Brown University, the Armenian Martyrs Memorial, and other sites, and learned about the role of Rhode Island in our nation’s history. The tour ended at the Sts. Vartanantz parish hall where delegates were treated to a homemade Armenian dinner and an exceptional all-Armenian musical program featuring talented youth from the Providence community performing instrumental and vocal selections from classical and folk repertoire. The performers Anoush Calikian, Shant Eghian, Raffi Rshdouni, Dalita Getzoyan, and Mrs. Aida Calikian received an enthusiastic standing ovation.

Present as well was Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian who applauded the youth, wishing them a bright future. The delegates continued the night singing and ending with the memorable “Giligia.”

On Saturday, July 16th elections were held for three Regional Board positions. Re-elected were:

Unghs. Suzanne Azarian, Caroline Chamavonian, and Carol Jaffarian.

Elected to represent the Eastern USA Region at the 70th ARS World Congress to be held later this year in Greece were: Unghs. Caroline Chamavonian, Valentine Berberian, Stephanie Killian, Taline Mkrtschjian. Ungh. Silva Kouyoumdjian was the appointed delegate of the Regional Board.

Following deliberations on Saturday, the 91st Annual Convention Banquet was held at the Hilton

Providence for delegates, guests and the local community. After dinner, welcoming remarks were offered by Ungh. Taline Mkrtschjian and Karen Pilla on behalf of the host chapters. Ungh. Silva Kouyoumdjian welcomed the guests on behalf of ARS E.U.S.A. Regional Board of Directors. Ungh. Kouyoumdjian invited Regional Board member Ungh. Annie Attar, of Detroit, MI, who spoke about this year’s recipient of the Prestigious Award, ARS Agnouni Award.

This award is given to an individual or entity that has supported ARS goals in a significant and lasting manner. Unger Armen Topouzian of Detroit. Ungh. Attar gave a brief biographical sketch and outlined Unger Topouzian’s achievements, especially his role in supporting the ARS Sosseh Kindergartens in Artsakh and the Recovered Territories. Since 1997 Unger Topouzian made over twenty trips to the region to oversee and monitor the construction of kindergartens. He was successful in finding sponsors, as well as sources for much-needed medical supplies and equipment, and arranging their shipment to Artsakh. Singly, he made a lasting impact on the lives of thousands of Armenians. Ungh Silva Kouyoumdjian handed the Agnouni Award to unger Armen Topouzian.

Ungh Silva Kouyoumdjian also announced the Century Club Trophy winner for this year. The recipient was the ARS Racine Chapter, which was successful in enrolling the greatest number of new Century Club members. Individuals can be a member of the Century Club and support the ARS Eastern USA with an annual $100 contribution.

The gathering heard the message of the ARF Central Committee Chairman Unger Antranig Kasparian. He extolled the ARS for its dedication and service and for “always being there” in times of crisis and need, and urged its members to forge ahead to meet the new challenges facing Armenia and the Diaspora.

Representing the Eastern Prelacy, Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian addressed the gathering, commending the ARS for “carrying the yoke of multi-dimensional responsibilities” in the Diaspora and Armenia. He observed that the ARS has a “God-given role” to care for Armenians in need and help preserve the Armenian identity.

ARS EUSA 2011 Raffle was drawn at the break. Over 2,000 tickets were sold throughout the Armenian communities east of the Mississippi. Proceeds from the benefit raffle support the educational and humanitarian programs and projects of the ARS.

The ARS Eastern USA Regional Executive Board thanks all donors and raffle supporters and congratulates the lucky winners.

1st Prize Cash prize $2000

Mr. Raffi Sarajian, Chestnut Ridge, NY

2nd Prize 14KT white gold pearl & diamond necklace donated by Golden Gift Jewelers, MI

Gordon-Latz, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

3rd Prize 16GB iPad with Wi-Fi

Valentine Kazanjian, Broomall, PA

4th Prize Dell Lap Top

Raffe Kesayan

5th Prize Hand painted Italian Scene

Thomas Dardarian, Philadelphia, PA

Later, Guests were entertained with listening and dancing music by Leon Janikian and his band.

On the last day of the meeting, delegates, chairpersons, secretaries, convention officials and committees were commended for their contributions to the business of the convention.  Special tribute was offered to Ungh. Marlene Vichabian, a guest of the convention, for her tireless service to the community on many levels. On behalf of the Providence Ani Chapter, chairperson Ungh. Karen Pilla thanked the delegates and reminded them to stay focused on the mission of the ARS, which is “in our hearts, not on paper.”

Ungh. Silva Kouyoumdjian acknowledged the contributions of Ungh. Vartouhie Chiloyan for her efforts in serving the regional office on many levels.

The Providence ARS Ani and Arax chapters are to be commended for organizing a memorable and flawless convention under the capable leadership of Joyce Yeremian. It is through such annual gatherings of members from diverse geographic areas that ARS members stay connected to one another and renew their dedication to the mission of the ARS.

—Ungh. May Kafafian, 91st Regional Convention Reporter

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