By Mimi Parseghian
WALTHAM, Mass. —The Armenian Relief Society Eastern Region (ARS-ER) recently hosted its 99th convention from July 18 to July 21 at the Hilton Garden Inn.
Opening remarks were delivered by ARS Regional Executive Chair Ani Attar and representatives from host chapters Seda Aghamianz (Cambridge “Shushi”) and Mayda Melkonian (Watertown “Leola Sassouni”).
A temporary Tivan was elected soon after. Taline Mkrtschjan (Providence “Arax”) served as Chair and Meliné Topouzian Berberian (Cambridge “Shushi”) served as Secretary on the Credential Committee. Irma Kassabian (Washington, D.C. “Satenig”), Mina Hovsepian (New York “Mayr”) and Yeran Manjikian (Watertown “Leola Sassouni”) were charged with reviewing the Chapter reports, financial fulfillment and delegate eligibility.
During a presentation of the Central Executive’s quadrennial report, Silva Kouyoumdjian focused on dozens of projects in Armenia and Artsakh and updated the group on the status of international entities and chapters. Kouyoumdjian also talked about the endowment fund Vision 2020 and the Syrian relief effort. ARS Central Executive Chair Caroline Chamavonian and Advisor Sonia Akelian also attended the Eastern Region’s Convention.
At the conclusion of Kouyoumdjian’s report, the Convention recessed in preparation for the formal opening ceremonies.
Very Rev. Fr. Sahag Yemishian, Vicar General of the Armenian Prelacy congratulated the gathering and offered words of encouragement and praise before leading the delegates and guests in prayer. Representatives from sister organizations also offered their congratulatory remarks: Varant Chiloyan (Hamazkayin), Nareh Mkrtschjan (AYF-YOARF), Yeran Manjikian (Homenetmen) and Ani Tchaglasian (Armenian Revolutionary Federation).
On behalf of the Regional Board, Heather Krafian (Cambridge “Shushi) presented the Annual Report, which detailed the activities and projects and discussed the overall state of the organization and provided recommendations for immediate and long-term plans.
Delegates offered their appreciation to the Board and especially to Executive Director Vartouhie Chiloyan.
The Convention elected the following to the Permanent Tivan: Chairpersons: Taline Mkrtschjan (Providence “Arax”) and Seda Aghamianz (Cambridge “Shushi”), Secretaries in the Armenian language: Reba Pilibosian (Detroit “Tzolig”) and Pauline Dostoumian (New Jersey “Shakeh”); Secretaries in the English language: Narineh Abrimian (Watertown “Leola Sassouni”) and Meliné Topouzian Berberian (Cambridge “Shushi”).
Invited as Convention guests were Linda Kechejian (Cambridge “Shushi”), Nancy Ganjian (Cambridge “Shushi”), Carmen Hovsepian (Florida “Sosseh”) and Sossi Bogharian (Watertown “Leola Sassouni”).
The following were selected to serve on the Nominating Committee: Ani Keshishian (New Jersey “Shakeh”), Nanor Matiossian (New Jersey “Shakeh”), Irma Kassabian (Washington “Satenig”), Lala Demirjian Attarian (Providence “Ani”) and Tamitza Dakissian (Detroit “Tzolig”).
The Correspondence Committee, whose function is to review the files and minutes of the Regional Office, included Pauline Getzoyan (Providence “Ani”), Maral Khatchadourian (Providence “Arax”) and Laura Jaffarian (Worcester “Knar”).
Elected to serve on the Auditing Committee were Mary Andonian (Florida “Sosseh”), Arpy Seferian (Chicago “Zabelle”) and Svetlana Babajanian (Fairfield County “Susan Terzian”).
The Resolutions Committee is tasked with gathering the decision and intent of the Convention for the following year’s projects and plans and present them to fellow delegates for review, revision and approval. This Committee consisted of Yn. Maggie Kouyoumdjian (New Jersey “Shakeh”), Zarouhi Suggs (Lowell “Lousintak”) and Nairi Ghazarian (Watertown “Leola Sassouni”).
Then, MaryAnne Bonjuklian and Sandra Vartanian conducted an educational activity which focused on the history and structure of the ARS. Delegates enjoyed the competitive nature of this activity.
The delegates then voted to have the Regional Board study and analyze the possibilities of having a biennial convention as opposed to the current annual. In place of the formal Convention, there will be a social, cultural and educational weekend.
There was also a robust discussion on establishing a senior residential facility in southern Florida. The group decided to conduct a feasibility study. The report will be presented within a year.
The ARS also discussed the popular and successful ARS Norian Youth Program, an educational seminar for college students, which is celebrating its tenth year. The program is an extension of the ARS Summer Studies which was established in 1971. The organization will be making changes to better reflect the needs of today’s students.
The group also discussed women’s social issues in Armenia and the Diaspora. For the next year, each Chapter will reach out to the closest women’s shelter in their area and provide support.
Educational activities generated by the Regional Board (seminars or individual Chapter presentations) are slated to continue. The ARS Essay Contest will be redesigned to make it easier for more Armenian children to participate.
AYF Camp Haiastan continues to be a recipient of major support from the Eastern Region. For the past few years, the focus has been on educational equipment and facility improvement for the Armenian classes. The ARS provided the smart board for the classroom and laptops for teachers. Per the request of Camp Haiastan’s Board of Directors, through ARS Liaison MaryAnne Bonjuklian, the Convention agreed to commit $15,000 to supply air conditioning units inside the classroom.
Since the quadrennial ARS International Convention will be taking place this fall, a number of resolutions were directed to that assembly, including internship opportunities at the ARS Soseh Kindergarten and the ARS Mother and Child Birthing Center, which was constructed and established by the ARS Eastern Region in Gyumri to benefit victims of the 1988 earthquake.
It was also suggested that each Chapter select a historian to create an archive for future generations.
Board Treasure Maral Nakashian presented the financial report, which revealed once again a surplus. The Board will continue to focus aggressively on fundraising to cover operational costs.
Program expenses are covered by the various endowments of the ARS. Johanna Chilingirian, Board member and Chair of the ARS Eastern Region Investment Committee, presented the status of the organization’s portfolio. She explained the organization’s Investment Policy Statement which was drafted by the Board after receiving suggestions from a hired portfolio manager and the advisory committee.
The Convention concluded with the election of Regional Board members and delegates to the International Convention.
Elected to a second two-year term was Ani Attar (Detroit “Tsolig”). Elected to serve a two-year term were Carol Jaffarian (Worcester “Knar”) and Irma Kassabian (“Washington “Satenig”). Sandra Vartanian (New York “Erebouni”), Johanna Chilingirian (Cambridge “Shushi”), Maral Nakashian (Washington “Satenig”) and Heather Krafian (Cambridge “Shushi”) will be serving the second year of their two year-term.
Delegates expressed their appreciation to MaryAnne Bonjuklian (Bergen County “Armenouhi”) and Silva Sagherian (Detroit “Tsolig”) who completed their terms. Seran Tcholakian (Detroit “Maro”) and Yeran Manjikian (Watertown “Leola Sassouni”) were elected as alternates.
Elected to represent the Eastern Region at the International Convention were Taline Mkrtschjan (Providence “Arax”), Pauline Getzoyan (Providence “Ani”), Sandra Vartanian (New York “Erebouni”) and Mary Andonian (Florida “Sosseh”). Pauline Dostoumian (New Jersey “Shakeh”) and Talin Daghlian (New Jersey “Agnouni”) were elected as alternates.
The meeting was adjourned with discussions for next year’s Convention, the organization’s 100th.