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ARS Eastern USA’s 97th Annual Convention Convenes in Arlington

Convention Applauds 2017 Fundraising, Program Success; Sets New Goals for 2017-18 Fiscal Year

By Convention Reporter, Georgi-Ann Oshagan

ARLINGTON, Va. (A.W.)—Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Eastern United States (ARS Eastern USA) delegates gathered in Arlington, Va., June 20-23, for the organization’s 97th annual Convention, where they assessed the region’s past fiscal year work and deliberated over goals for 2017-18.

ARS Eastern USA delegates gathered in Arlington, Va., June 20-23, for the organization’s 97th annual Convention.

The convention was held at the Key Bridge Marriott and hosted by the Washington “Satenig” chapter.

In intense sessions over two-and-a-half days, delegates reflected on the prior year’s significant successes and debated over new milestones to achieve for the future.

The convention was led by co-chairs Ani Attar, Detroit “Tsolig” (English-language co-chair) and Taline Mkrtschjan, Providence “Arax” (Armenian-language co-chair). Armenian-language secretaries were Knarik Kiledjian (N.J. “Shakeh”), and Ani Bardakjian (Detroit “Zabel”). English-language secretaries were Nevair Orangian (New York “Erebouni”) and Helena Bardakjian (Detroit “Zabel”).

ARS Eastern USA Regional Board of Directors Chair Talin Daghlian welcomed ARS Central Executive Chairperson ungerouhi Caroline Chamavonian, delegates, observers and the region’s two invited guests: Angele Manoogian (Florida “Sosseh”) and Sevan Kolejian (Washington “Satenig”). Convention-invited guests were Armenian National Committee of America ANCA Communications Director Elizabeth Chouldjian; Sona Gulbenk and Suzan Terzian (Conn.); and Jemma Simonian and Elo Tanashian (Washington “Satenig”).

ARS Eastern USA Regional Board of Directors Chair Talin Daghlian welcomed delegates.

“This 107-year-old noble organization evokes a feeling of pride in each and every one of us,” Daghlian said in her opening remarks. “I’m proud of our accomplishments, proud of our endeavors, and proud of the vision for the future.”

ARS members visited the ANCA headquarters in Washington.

Daghlian applauded the work of the chapters and the important fundraising successes achieved by the region. Spearheaded by a committee led by Angele Manoogian, the region’s chapters raised over $450,000 to support the international ARS effort to reconstruct the ARS Sosseh Kindergarten building in Stepanakert. Additional donations to the region flowed from two major cultural entrepreneurship events: the Shadoyan Fashion Show in New Jersey and Pinajian Art Exhibit in New York.

Daghlian also highlighted the continued success and growth of the ARS Youth Connect Program, which most recently drew 160 college-age Armenian students to program host locations Columbia University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to learn more about Armenian history and current affairs.

Looking ahead, Daghlian noted that new educational investment is needed at the chapter level to motivate and support existing members and attract new blood. Daghlian challenged delegates to pass resolutions that would elevate the ARS Eastern USA and move community work to ever-higher levels of activism and accomplishment.

Delegates accepted Daghlian’s challenge and passed 10 resolutions to strengthen current community-level programming and nurture and educate the all-volunteer 1,100-plus membership. Throughout the fiscal year, chapters will be working hard to promote the Society’s work through revitalized and modernized Walk Armenia events to raise funds for local projects and support the eastern region’s programs in Armenia, while promoting the ARS’s ideals to local Armenian and non-Armenian communities. Chapters will also be supporting the ARS’s international-level “Vision 2020” fundraising effort and continuing to provide moral and financial assistance to community-stabilizing initiatives throughout the eastern USA, and Armenia, Artsakh, Javakhk, and Syria.

The region will also be rallying around a project to elevate and promote the ARS’s critical role in the establishment of the first Republic of Armenia as part of centennial anniversary observations, which will be held throughout 2018.

Delegates passed an important resolution to invest in chapter educational and leadership development. A focused training program will begin in November to mentor current chapter executives and ARS members to take the ARS Eastern USA’s work further into the 21st century.

Delegates received a preview of part of the educational program during a seminar conducted by Georgi-Ann Oshagan, Detroit “Maro” delegate and former ARS Eastern USA and ARS Central Executive Board member. Entitled “Reconnecting to our ARS Mission: Emblem, Anthem, Oath, Purpose, Objectives,” the seminar served to inspire delegates by reminding them of the ARS’s values through ARS sources of inspiration and connecting those values to the mandatory work ahead at the convention and beyond into daily community work.

Additional words of support and encouragement were provided by international ARS, Inc. Central Executive Board Chair Caroline Chamavonian, who is also a member of the Philadelphia “Artemis” chapter.

“Today, many Armenian communities are facing serious difficulties,” Chamavonian observed. “Our Syrian-Armenian community is struggling to survive and trying to rise again, while Armenia and Artsakh are facing imminent dangers, and the socio-economic crises have overwhelmed our community in Javakhk.

“Our ARS chapters and regions continue to help wherever the need exists,” Chamavonian added. “Kudos to you all. You’ve exceeded all expectations in raising the utmost funds for the ARS Sosseh Kindergarten rebuilding project in Stepanakert. Thank you for meeting the needs of your own communities as an exemplary Armenian woman.”

The convention’s opening ceremonies began on a meaningful note with Detroit Tsolig’s Helena Bardakjian singing the Armenian, American, and ARS anthems.

Helena Bardakjian singing the Armenian, American, and ARS anthems.

ARS Eastern USA board of directors chair Daghlian presented Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan with the region’s prestigious Agnouni Award, named for ARS founder Edgar Agnouni (Khachadour Malumian). Archbishop Choloyan accepted the award with humility, saying that the honor inspiring the award belongs to God. He concluded by wishing the ARS continued growth and great success.

ARS Eastern USA Board of Directors Chair Daghlian presented Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan with the region’s prestigious Agnouni Award.

Remarks were provided by Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Central Committee member Antranig Kasbarian, who urged the ARS to promote its impactful and sustained community work more; and ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian, who observed that Armenian men are soldiers, but Armenian women hold the swords.

ARF Central Committee member Antranig Kasbarian speaking to delegates and guests.

Hamazkayin Regional Executive member Helena Bardakjian in her remarks, commended the ARS’s fundraising efforts for the Syrian Armenians and Artsakh Soseh Kindergartens. She praised the youth programs in the region, referring to the Youth Connect Program (YCP) and shared her personal experiences as a YCP attendee for the past several years. Hosting such programs, ARS YCP and Hamazkayin ArtLinks have become trade marks among the youth of the eastern and western region, that allow young adults to discuss Armenian issues and experience deeper relations with our homeland and network with other youth.

Delegates, guests and community members continued to connect at a convention dinner-dance at Soorp Khatch Armenian Apostolic Church’s hall, Bethesda, Md. “Satenig” chapter Chair Irma Kassabian welcomed the crowd. Rev. Sarkis Aktavoukian blessed the meal and conveyed his own congratulations.

Guest speaker was Robert Avetisyan, Artsakh Permanent Representative of the Artsakh Republic to the U.S. Avetisyan reflected on the powerful impact the ARS’s work has on Artsakh’s safety and security. He conveyed the Artsakh government’s deep appreciation for the ARS’s past, current and future work in the fledgling country.

ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian observed that Armenian men are soldiers, but Armenian women hold the swords.

The ARS Eastern USA’s annual raffle drawing was conducted at the dinner-dance. 2017 raffle winners were as follows:

1st Prize: Diane Mavian, Northville, Mich.; one-week stay in Poconos donated by Amirian Family

2nd Prize: Sandra Megerdichian, Cranston, R.I.; Camp Haiastan Campership donated by Camp Haiastan

3rd Prize: Rev. Father Hovnan Bozoian, Ridgefield, N.J.; two Metropolitan Opera prime tickets donated by Armen Amirian and dinner for two at Almayass donated by Almayass Restaurant

4th Prize: Hermine Tervizian, New York, N.Y.; Kegham Tazian’s digital photo “The Beauty” donated by Vicky Shoghag Hovanessian

5th Prize: Lucy Sakian, Frederick, Md.; two-tone gold bracelet donated by Khachig Hagopian

6th Prize: Long Grove Dental, Long Grove, Ill.; pearl necklace donated by Silva Sagherian

7th Prize: Nayry Khatcherian, New York, N.Y.; 50” Samsung TV donated by Saro and Hilda Hartounian

8th Prize: Berberian, N.J.; Nixon Minz Chrono watch donated by Russ Wilkie

The convention’s last day was busy, with the passage of final resolutions and the region’s annual budget. An election was also held for three board of regional director seats. Unanimously elected to serve another two-year term were MaryAnne Bonjuklian, Bergen County, and Silva Sagherian, Detroit “Tsolig.” Ani Attar of the Detroit “Tsolig” chapter was elected to fill the seat vacated by term-limited Margaret “Margie” Babikian Medina of the Bergen County chapter, who received many thanks from Regional Board members and delegates for her four years of dedicated board service.

Two alternates were also elected to serve on the board in the event of a vacancy. First alternate was Maral Nakashian, Washington “Satenig,” and second alternate was Knarik Kiledjian, Hudson County, N.J. “Shakeh.”

The elected board members join Talin Daghlian, New Jersey “Agnouni”; Sandra Vartanian, New York “Erebouni,” Johanna Chilingirian, Cambridge “Shooshi”; and Sonia Bezdikian, New York “Mayr.”

As the convention closed, delegates promised to take the convention’s spirit of unity and commitment back to their chapters, thus ensuring a successful and spirited year ahead!

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