Reflections from the 101st ARS of Eastern USA Convention

By Kohar Bargamian Teague (Kohar Mardig)
101st ARS of Eastern USA Convention Reporter 

On the first day of the 101st ARS of Eastern USA Convention, delegates arrived in the hotel lobby to a warm welcome from members of the ARS North Carolina “Nayiri” Chapter: Judy Hagopian Edwards, Lusya Shmavonian Schnelli and Anita Mangasarian Bolz. By the time the opening session in the evening had begun, all knew the legendary story of the newly-established chapter. The chapter’s start was very William Saroyanesque – “See if the race will not live again when two of them meet.”  Shmavonian Schnelli explained, “It was our family’s fascination with the pineapple and my son’s taking a picture of Ungerouhi Judy’s Pineapple Realtor sign while on a bike trip that was the catalyst. The pineapple and that picture connected us. My son came back from his biking trip with the picture and noticed that the realtor’s last name on the sign had an -ian at the end of the name. I reached out to Judy with a simple telephone call, and the rest is history.”

When the 2020 Artsakh War began, Shmavonian Schnelli, Hagopian Edwards and Mangasarian Bolz knew that they needed to organize humanitarian efforts. With the administrative assistance of ARS-EUSA executive director Vartouhie Chiloyan and the ARS-EUSA executive board, they formed North Carolina’s first ARS chapter. Like the founding members of the ARS over a century ago, Shmavonian Schnelli knew that there was no such thing as “sitting on the sidelines;” Artsakh’s soldiers and citizens alike needed aid. The fledgling chapter and its members have already made a profound impact—to rise up, organize and serve the noble cause of providing humanitarian and educational aid for all Armenians in the diaspora and homeland. We are sure to see many more great things come from this vibrant chapter.

The ARS North Carolina “Nayiri” Chapter was not the only “hot” act at the convention. First-time delegates not only excelled in their duties, but they also went above and beyond and filled the roles of tivan, secretaries and committee members. After the reading of the English meeting minutes of the first session, the convention cheered and clapped hands for a job well done. Both English meeting minute scribers, Areni Margosian and Ani Aroyan, quickly explained, “This is not our first go around with writing minutes; the AYF has trained us well with taking minutes for AYF chapter meetings and conventions.” 

Equally impressive was the resolutions committee; three ARS members—Artvine Nekrourian, Hagopian Edwards and Sossy Shahinian Sagherian—deftly crafted resolutions and made the language clear for the new ARS-ER Board to understand and execute. Hagopian Edwards described her participation on the committee as “total immersion!” Fascinated by the process, Nekrourian admitted, “There is a fine line and balance between what the committee received as a resolution and ‘the needed cleaning up of the language’ so that the intent of the author is maintained.” Shahinian Sagherian took it all in stride knowing diligence in listening was the key in designing a resolution that matched the convention’s wishes. She found that her role on the committee was a valuable experience.

The 101st ARS of Eastern USA Convention delegates were not shy to share their thoughts. On the contrary, every delegate needed to share their thoughts on everything from the smallest of issues (order of agenda, breaks, lunch, etc.) to the topics at hand (funding sources, leadership and strategy). Delegates were grateful to convention chairpersons Shakeh Basmajian and MaryAnne Bonjuklian and all the committee members. For many, this convention was their first time—in a long time—attending an in-person meeting—a welcome break from the Zoom meetings of the pandemic.

‘Singing with the stars’ at the 101st ARS-EUSA Convention

On Friday night, the convention delegates and guests (who did not have convention/committee duties to complete) organically commandeered the entire hotel outdoor pool patio and gave new meaning to “singing with the stars,” as Armenian revolutionary and love songs echoed in the summer evening air. The ARS-ER Convention’s lead singing stars were Yn. Maggie Kouyoumdjian, Silva Kouyoumdjian, Marina Yakoubian. 

On Sunday morning August 21, the tone of the convention was unified. With the new Board elected, the ARS-EUSA Board and delegates were energized to return to their chapters and members and carry out the established programs of the ARS-EUSA and help plan the strategic growth of funding and membership resources, as well as maintain vigilance in providing humanitarian aid to Armenians in crisis zones.

Many ARS members shared their heartfelt gratitude for the inspiring gathering. Heather Krafian and Maral Nakashian wished the new Board success as they stepped down upon completing their terms. Angele Manoogian presented the new Board with a generous donation. The convention cheered and thanked her for her unwavering commitment and generosity to the ARS Eastern USA. The ARS-EUSA Board was able to present the North Carolina chapter with seed money to fund their projects through funds collected from the Saturday night gala raffle and the convention’s Sergeant at Arms.  

The chapters that voted and sent delegates to the 2022 convention should be commended. Each delegate contributed their very best as they listened, learned and mentored. One should always strive to “leave it better than you found it,” reminded Krafian. Congratulations to all the delegates. You made a difference.

Armenian Relief Society Eastern U.S.
The ARS Eastern USA has 35 chapters located throughout the New England, Mid-Atlantic, Midwestern and Southeastern regions of the United States.

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