WATERTOWN, Mass. (A.W.)—The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Cambridge “Shushi” chapter celebrated 85 years of service to the Greater Boston Armenian community at the Oakley Country Club in Watertown on April 29. The theme of the celebration was “Honoring the Past and Looking to the Future” and chapter spent the day honoring and remembering the women who came before them.
The afternoon began with a warm welcome from ARS Cambridge “Shushi” members ushering guests in as they arrived to a foyer of excitement, stepping into the past, greeted by numerous ARS archival poster photos of the Cambridge chapter in the 1940s and 50s. Guests were then treated to a photo-op at the ARS photo banner by photographer Garo Lachinian. While entering the banquet hall, guests were met with two rows of beautifully decorated tables of raffle gifts. In addition, guests entered the hall to a Silent Auction display full of jewelry, gift cards, and amazing Armenian scarves, all donated to support the “ARS Sponsor a Bed” program for Armenian soldiers in a rehabilitation Hospital in Yerevan.
Once in the hall, guests were surrounded by more ARS archival posters and memorabilia, with a table full of artifacts such as old minutes in bound notebooks written in Armenian, old chapter rosters, as well as ARS promotional materials over the years. A beautifully decorated 85th anniversary cake created by the famous Montillios Baking Company of Boston was displayed. Placed next to the cake was one of the founders and lifelong member ungerouhi Armenouhi Pahigian’s photo.
The guests mingled and enjoyed the reception full of photo displays, hors d’oeuvres, and cocktails, as well as sharing stories of the past.
The program began with welcoming remarks from Master of Ceremonies ungerouhi Satenig Dulgarian Ghazarian, from the ARS “Maro” chapter in Los Angeles—a former hometown Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) girl from Lowell, Mass. The Invocation was delivered by Rev. Archpriest Antranig Baljian of St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church of Watertown and the ARS Anthem was sung A Capella by Arev Ensemble member and ungerouhi Ani Zargarian.
Following the luncheon, the “Honoring the Past” program began. To share the history of the Cambridge chapter, ungerouhi Arpi Demirjian Davis shared many stories and traditions of the chapter over the years. These founding ungerouhis came from the horrors of the Armenian Genocide to a new land, a new language, and a new culture. They had church to worship in and no community center to congregate around. They found the means to gather, organize, and fundraise for their fellow Armenians. The work these ungerouhis in such difficult times and circumstances was remarkable.
Ungerouhi Heather Apigian Krafian, the Cambirdge “Shushi” chair, then took to the podium to provide details about the chapter’s present. In 2004, “Shushi” was added to the chapter name. This historic fortress city in the southern mountainous region of Artsakh, is best known for the heroic battle during the Nagorno-Karabagh war. The Cambridge ARS proudly took the name “Shushi” in honor of the victory.
Over the past six years, the chapter has gained 18 new ungerouhis. The seasoned ungerouhis took these new members under their wings, welcomed them and their ideas, and worked side by side as they revitalized the chapter together. In the last six years alone, the chapter has raised over $43,000 in charitable donations.
Ungerouhi Georgi Ann Bargamian Oshagan then addressed the crow about the future of the organziation and the importance of knowing the past and looking forward. (To enjoy all the speakers messages, please visit the ARS Cambridge “Shushi” Facebook page)
Following the speakers, the audience was blessed with the performance by the Arev Ensemble, singing “Bingeol,” “Khorovats Er,” “Yara Martun Yara Kuta,” and “Yerevani Sirun Aghchik.” The performance was a melodic blend of traditional Armenian songs.
The traditional ARS service pin ceremony then took place honoring ungerouhis Arpi Demirjian Davis and Mary Krafian for their 50 year service to the ARS. Ungerouhis Maryanna Bonjuklian and Johanna Chilingirian, representing the ARS Eastern Regional Board, presented the honorees with their service certificates and pins. The ARS Eastern Regional Board members continued to honor ungerouhis Naro Khandjian, Alice Voskerichian, Houry Boyamian, Seda Aghamianz, Vany Tashjian, Sophie Melkiain, and Heather Krafian for their 25 years of service.
Ungerouhi Heather Krafian recognized ungerouhis Susan Tikiryan and Emma Balian for their 20 plus years of service and ungerouhis Arax Badalian, Arpi Arzoomanian, Nelly Etyemezian, Angela Hovanesian, Ojik Gregorian, Sona Iradian, Vera Iskenderian, and Anahid Mardiros for their 40 plus years of service to the ARS.
Ungerouhi Johanna Chilingirian, on behalf of the chapter, took a moment to surprise chapter chair Ungerouhi Heather Krafian for her dedication and service to revitalizing the chapter and spearheading the 85th Anniversary celebration.
The afternoon came to a close with a wonderful raffle and silent auction with many winners. There were many generous donors who contributed to the success of the raffle and auction. The raffle raised nearly $2,000, which will assist in securing a hospital bed for the Yerevan Hospital No. 1, which offers medical services to disabled veterans. The need for basic medical equipment like a bed ensures that each hospital is furnished to give proper care for each soldier who has risked their life to defend our homeland’s borders.
Following the Benediction by Archpriest Baljian, the chapter gathered for a Ccapter photo, holding the”Photo of the Chapter” from the past. It was a symbolic moment, honoring the past and looking to the future.
For 85 years, the ARS Cambridge chapter has been counted on for support in the local community and abroad—Armenian and non-Armenian. Not much has changed in that regard over the years. The ARS will continue to work for the people, the homeland, and the Armenian community.