Delegates from across the eastern United States gathered at the Double Tree Hotel in King of Prussia, Pa., from July 18-21 for the 93rd Annual Regional Convention of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Eastern USA. The ARS “Artemis” and “Ani” Chapters hosted this year’s event.
The four-day convention was attended by 41 delegates from 19 ARS Eastern USA chapters. They were joined by the ARS Eastern USA Regional Executive Board; Central Executive Board (CEB) representative Caroline Chamavonian; Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Central Committee representative Angele Manoogian; Elizabeth Dramgochian from Homenetmen Eastern USA; guests Majda Garabedian, Silva Kouyoumdjian, and Nayiri Balanian; and ARS CEB Chairwoman Vicky Marashlian. The Convention Body also invited Azniv Jebejian from the “Ani” Chapter and Anahid Shirozian from the “Artemis” chapter.
Ani Attar, the chairwoman of the ARS Eastern USA, delivered the opening remarks, and invited His Eminence Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan to share his message and blessings.
His Eminence opened the convention with some words to the wise: “You are perpetuating a sacred mission. You serve the needy, the children, and all those who are in need of the helping hands of the ARS,” he said. “I find it commendable that generations past and present are working toward the enhancement of our Armenian heritage throughout the world. We must all act together for the betterment of our nation.”
Chamavonian then relayed the organization’s message to the convention, and praised members of the eastern region for their efforts in helping Armenians in Syria. “During this convention, we will discuss sensitive matters on both regional and global levels. I believe that united we will be able to reach new heights, pass constructive resolutions, and arrive at successful conclusions,” she said.
On behalf of the ARS CEB, Chamavonian also extended her gratitude to members who took time from their daily tasks and—as true Homouhis—served with devotion and commitment to achieve the noble aims of the ARS. She quoted the words of Malala, the 16-year-old Pakistani girl who is fighting for the right to education: “One child, one teacher, one book, one pen can change the world,” adding, “And I will say, one ARS member, one Homouhi who strongly believes in the ARS’s mission can make a difference and—why not—change the world. After all it was one person, Agnouni, who believed in the ARS’s mission and established the first ARS chapter in New York. Now, after more than 100 years, we are still here, strong with 15,000 members and 220 chapters, and with a presence in 27 countries.”
Manoogian then delivered the ARF CC’s message. She said the ARS was born from the people and until now serves its people and enjoys the love and care of its people. “As we stand on the verge of 2015, when we will commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, we stand strong,” she said. “We will help the ANCA remain at the forefront and we will demand justice.”
“Today after almost 100 years, our communities are in need of help. For almost a century, Syrian Armenians built schools, churches, prepared leaders, and today they are in dire need. … It is now our turn to help our Syrian-Armenian sisters and brothers in this time of distress,” said Manoogian, and wished the convention continued success in what has already been a pivotal year.
Elizabeth Dramgotchian spoke next, relaying the Homenetmen Eastern Region’s message.
The Convention Body elected Talin Daghlian, from the “Agnouni” Chapter, New Jersey, and Arpy Seferian, from the “Zabelle” Chapter, Illinois, as co-chairs. The Convention secretaries were Helena Bardakjian, “Zabelle” Chapter, Michigan; Joyce Aghjayan, “Knar” Chapter, Massachusetts; and Elizabeth Dramgochian, “Artemis” Chapter.
Following the elections of the convention’s nominating, auditing and budgeting, correspondence, and resolution committees, the delegates took a break for a reception. The convention also appointed a parliamentarian, a reporter, and a sergeant-at-arms.
The ARS Eastern USA participates fully in the ARS, Inc.’s worldwide programs, including the “Sponsor A Child” Program, providing funds for 7,000 orphans in Armenia and Artsakh since 1992; the Orphan Education Fund, assisting orphans in Armenia and Artsakh with post-secondary educational financing; the Sosseh Kindergarten Project; and the ARS Mother and Child Health Clinic and Birthing Center, which provides healthcare and birthing facilities for families in Armenia’s Gyumri region. ARS Eastern USA programs include the ARS Undergraduate Scholarship and Lazarian Graduate Scholarship for students of Armenian heritage, and Armenian everyday and Armenian one-day school support. The ARS Eastern USA also sponsors Camp Haiastan’s educational program and camper assistance funds.
Board member Carol Jaffarian prepared and showed a PowerPoint presentation documenting ARS life throughout the eastern region. ARS Eastern USA Treasurer Taline Mkrtschjan presented the financial report, as well as the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2013-14.
The convention also discussed the region’s current work and projections for the year ahead. It reviewed the annual report; approved a 2013-14 budget; adopted new resolutions; and looked ahead to the challenges of implementing programs for the upcoming fiscal year.
The ARS Regional Executive Board’s daunting work has been made more difficult in the last fiscal year because of the crisis in Syria and the unstable situation that Syrian Armenians face. The Convention Body passed a resolution to help Syrian-Armenian families who have been identified as being in dire need of immediate relief funding by pledging $100 per family per month for a one-year period. It also acknowledged Vartouhie Chiloyan’s continued dedication and diligence in serving the ARS Eastern USA.
Chairwoman Attar thanked the chapters and members for their continued support to the eastern region programs and activities. She also announced that the region received the estates of the late Albert and Queene Bagian and Kourken and Margaret Asadourian. The ARS of Eastern USA will use only the interest income of the funds for its charitable work in the Eastern region.
Filmmaker Bared Maronian was also invited by the Board of Directors to introduce his upcoming project, “Women of 1915.” This project is in its beginning stages, but aims to bring the women of 1915 to life and to
the attention of the world. The Board of Directors had asked the Convention Body to sponsor the project. The delegates unanimously encouraged the Board to continue its mission. Chapters and members inspired by this project raised $3,900.
The Convention Body elected the new Executive Board for 2013-14. Continuing Board members are Ani Attar, “Tzolig” Chapter, Michigan; Taline Mkrtschjan, “Arax” Chapter, Rhode Island; Valentine Berberian, “Mayr” Chapter, New York; and Sevan Kolejian, “Satenig” Chapter, Washington, D.C.
Joining them are newly elected Board members Silva Bedian, “Zabelle” Chapter, Illinois; Melissa Simonian, “Ani” Chapter, Rhode Island; and Margaret Babikian Medina, “Bergen County” Chapter, New Jersey.
At the Convention Banquet, the ARS Eastern USA Regional Executive Board recognized outgoing Regional Executive Board members Suzanne Azarian, Carol Jaffarian, and Ani Keshishian.
The Convention Body thanks the “Ani” and “Artemis” Chapters for their hospitality and attentiveness to the needs of the attendees.