FRANKLIN, Mass. (A.W.)—Thanks to the generosity and dedication of Mr. Gregory Arabian of Belmont, Mass. and the Rafaelian-Caruolo family of Cranston, R.I., AYF Camp Haiastan is set to embark on yet another significant infrastructure upgrade this spring. Three major projects have been already completed in the past three years: a new camp-wide septic system, a new water well, and most recently, a new shower and bath facility.
Arabian is increasing his commitment to the Armenian Cause by donating $250,000 to renovate and add a second floor to our aging Director’s Quarters in Franklin. This dramatic transformation will allow our summer directors to live in enhanced quarters on the second floor with increased privacy and a second bedroom while adding four bedrooms on the first floor for semi-private accommodations for head counselors, assistant directors, guests and more. This donation was spurred by the love felt by Attorney Arabian during his numerous visits to AYF Camp Haiastan while executing the wishes of Neshon Hagopian as the executor of Mr. Hagopian’s Estate.
“I have decided that this is how I wish my legacy to be,” Arabian said, while pointing to the 50-plus-year-old building. “I like what you are doing here.”
Having been an active supporter of the Hairenik Association while following in his father’s footsteps, Arabian has also made a significant contribution there as well. Well-known in the Watertown, Mass. community, Arabian has been involved in the development of the Armenian Cultural and Educational Center (ACEC), advised Camp Haiastan for numerous years, and has been an Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) member as well. His commitment to the Milford Armenian-American Veteran group has resulted in various fundraising efforts including a previous donation to AYF Camp Haiastan for the Hye Hope Pavilion. Arabian has also made significant contributions to St. Gregory’s Church in North Andover, Mass. as well.
The office at the lower camp has been the headquarters of all staff during the busy summer months, an office to the summer director and head counselors in addition to doubling as our camp store. Being one of the oldest buildings at camp, Rebecca Rafaelian-Caruolo and her mother have been constant donors to Camp Haiastan. Wanting to do more, Rebecca began to inquire about projects they “could get involved in.” Settling on renovating a crumbling office, a large donation was made. When bids were received at a significantly higher amount, the Rafaelians quickly realized that demolishing the old building and erecting a larger building was the right road to travel. “I can hear my father saying it to me now: ‘Don’t just paint it, fix it right!’” said Rebecca. Within hours, the project went from renovating an undersized decaying building to a new, larger building with a much needed conference area, more functional office layout and a new camp store.
The motivation to help has been based on a generational love of the impact of Camp Haiastan on their family. Having attended as campers and working as staff members, the Rafaelian family holds the importance of the camp and the future of the Armenian youth close to their hearts. “It’s all about giving back,” said Rebecca when commenting on the desire to make a difference at Camp Haiastan. “The camp has meant so much to all of us, we want the next generation to have the same experiences we had”.
Ralph Rafaelian was a pillar in the Rhode Island Armenian community, contributing under the radar without much fanfare. From sponsoring families coming from overseas and helping them settle in America, to being part of creating Sts. Vartanantz’ endowment fund and its driving force, Rafaelian and his wife Lucy were engaged. Shipments of clothes they sent to families in Armenia were often accompanied with hidden “surprises” in their pockets. He was always there when the community needed a helping hand, and his memory will never be forgotten by his family or Camp Haiastan.
As AYF Camp Haiastan continues its impressive growth and revitalization, many more projects are in the planning phases. Projects include the re-purposing of the old washstands, bathrooms and showers; installing a new sprinkler system in the Tzamhour Hall to complete renovations begun four years ago; and exploratory planning of a new multi-purpose field and new cabins for the cabin circle.
If you or anyone you know are interested in any of the potential projects at AYF Camp Haiastan, please contact me at 508 520-1312. Donations can be made directly to Camp Haiastan as we are a 501(c)3 and donations are tax deductible to the fullest extent allowable by law.
We hope to see you in Franklin this summer!