NOVI, Mich.—Delegates from across the Eastern United States gathered at the Sheraton in Novi from Aug. 13-16 for the 95th Annual Regional Convention of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) Eastern USA. Together, the ARS “Maro,” “Shakeh,” “Sybille,” “Tsolig,” and “Zabel” Chapters were this year’s convention hosts.
The four-day convention was attended by 39 accredited delegates from 21 ARS Eastern USA chapters. The delegates were joined by members of the ARS of Eastern USA Regional Executive Board, as well as representatives from the ARS, Inc. Central Executive Board (Caroline Chamavonian), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Central Committee (Ung. Khajag Mgrdichian), Homenetmen Eastern USA (Shant Jamgochian), and Hamazkayin Eastern Region (Shoghere Ourlian), and guests Tatul Sonentz, Ungh. Angele Manoogian, Ungh. Ani Attar, and Ungh. Shakeh Basmajian. The convention body also invited Ungh. Donna Katcherian of the “Maro” Chapter and Ungh. Tamitza Dakissian of the “Tsolig” Chapter to join.
ARS of Eastern USA Chairwoman Ungh. Talin Daghlian welcomed all—delegates, clergy, and guests—to the opening of the 95th Convention and invited Vicar General Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian to deliver his message and blessings. Tanielian stressed the humanitarian nature of the ARS and, in praise of its membership, stated, “Armenian Relief Society members abide by their mission of mercy, serving the needy all over the world. Throughout the present crisis in Syria, their charitable work has been more than commendable through their various programs, such as ‘Hot Meal,’ ‘Warm Home,’ and ‘Sponsor a Family’. You all work tirelessly for the betterment of our nation,” he said.
Following the vicar’s opening remarks, Ungh. Sonia Mishigian sang the ARS anthem and Ungh. Seran Tcholakian welcomed the attendees to Michigan on behalf of the five Detroit chapters, and wished them a successful and enjoyable weekend. The convention body then officially proceeded with its agenda.
Ungh. Daghlian introduced Ungh. Chamavonian, who relayed the Central Executive Board’s message to the convention, extending her gratitude to all present members who continually take time from their daily tasks to serve the ARS with devotion and commitment. She praised members of the Eastern Region for their support and tireless efforts to help the Syrian-Armenian community at a time of great need, and for their commitment to all ARS projects and programs worldwide. She wished all present a productive meeting and a successful convention.
In the same spirit, Ung. Mgrdichian delivered the ARF (Eastern) Central Committee’s message of appreciation and fraternal wishes of success. Similar messages followed by Shoghere Ourlian, representing the Hamazkayin Eastern Region, and Shant Jamgochian, representing the Homenetmen Eastern Region.
The Convention elected Unghs. Silva Kouyoumdjian, “Shakeh” Chapter, NJ and Simone Topouzian, “Maro” Chapter, MI as its co-chairs. Unghs. Silva Sagherian, “Tzolig” Chapter, MI, Anik Kechichian, “Shakeh” Chapter, NJ, Sylva Jerikian, “Zabelle” Chapter, IL, and Helena Bardakjian, “Zabel” Chapter, MI, were elected as Convention secretaries. Following the elections of the Nominating, Auditing and Budgeting, Correspondence, and Resolutions committees, and appointing a Parliamentarian, a Reporter, and a Sergeant-at-Arms, the Convention took a break for a reception.
The meeting continued its agenda with the ARS CE 2014-2015 report, presented by Ungh. Caroline Chamavonian who highlighted the worldwide activities of the ARS through an engaging PowerPoint presentation. Another powerpoint was prepared and shown by ARS of Eastern USA Secretary Ungh Melissa Simonian, showing ARS life throughout the Eastern Region. The ARS Eastern USA participates fully in the ARS, Inc.’s world-wide 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 education financing; the “Soseh” Kindergartens, the ARS “Mother & Child” Health Clinic and Birthing Center, which provides health care and birthing facilities for families in Armenia’s Gyumri region. Supporting AYF “Javakhk” Camp, and helping families with many children. The ARS of Eastern USA supported Armenians of Syria through ARS of Syria Programs, such as “Hot Meal”, “Warm Home”, and “Sponsor a Syrian-Armenian Family”.
ARS of Eastern USA Treasurer Ungh. Margaret Babikian Medina presented the Financial Report as well as the proposed budget for the Fiscal Year 2015-2016.
ARS of Eastern USA programs include the Youth Connect Program, ARS Undergraduate Scholarship and “Lazarian” Graduate Scholarship for students of Armenian heritage; Armenian every- day and one-day school support. The ARS of Eastern USA also provides Camp Haiastan’s educational program and camper assistance funds. These are only some of the projects which are supported through the fundraising efforts of local ARS chapters and through ARS Eastern USA endowments.
Continuing its agenda, the Convention focused its attention on the Region’s current work and projections for the year ahead. It stressed the importance of rebuilding the Stepanakert “Soseh” Kindergarten considering its present dilapidated state, unsafe for occupancy. Delegates representing 21 chapters pledged $32,000 for the project. Ungh Angele Manoogian announced at the Banquet that Mr. and Mrs. Aurelian and Anahid Mardiros had generously donated $50,000 for the Soseh kindergarten project. The couple is well known as generous benefactors in the Greater Boston community.
The Convention reviewed the annual report, approved a 2015-2016 budget, and adopted new resolutions, setting its sights on the challenges of the upcoming fiscal year. The convention recognized the Regional Executive Board’s daunting work, made harder over the last fiscal year because of the Genocide Centennial commemorations, the visit of His Holiness Aram I to our communities, and the ongoing crisis in Syria—and passed a resolution to continue its humanitarian support to secure our people’s survival through the perils of this disastrous war. In recognition of the increasing work-load of the Regional Office, the convention acknowledged with gratitude the continued dedication and diligence of its executive director, Vartouhie Chiloyan. Chairwoman Daghlian said that with the support of its chapters, members, and staff, dedicating themselves to the avowed mission of the ARS and “serving the humanitarian needs of the Armenian People,” this collective effort will not only benefit the Armenian-American community, but also Armenia, Artsakh, Javakhk, and the Armenian Diaspora.
As we ponder on the activities of this past year, and the past hundred and five years, and plan for the next year and the next century, we are confident that together we can build on the success of the past. In order for the ARS to continue its growth, our youth must be encouraged to become active members of the Society, engaging themselves in programs and activities that will further strengthen the organization’s foundations. The Board of Directors believes that recruiting new members, who can take on greater responsibilities should be a priority for our organization.
The Convention expresses its sincere gratitude to members, benefactors and supporters who have graciously donated their time, effort and financial assistance. Without their commitment and dedication, many achievements would have remained unaccomplished. Energized by their support, the ARS of Eastern USA will always remain faithful to its mission, always “With the people, for the people”.
On Friday evening the Convention broke for a tour to the Armenian Community center for a delicious and very tasty dinner hosted by the Detroit Chapters. The hospitality was extended in every direction as delegates mingled with locals and enjoyed seeing the Hamazkayin Dance group perform.
Back to the concluding session of the Convention, the delegates elected the new Executive Body for the Fiscal year 2015-2016. Continuing Board members are Ungerouhiner Talin Daghlian, “Agnouni” Chapter, NJ, Sevan Kolejian, “Satenig” Chapter, DC, Margaret Babikian Medina, “Bergen County”, NJ, Taline Mkrtschjan, “Arax” Chapter, RI, Sonia Bezdikian, “Mayr” Chapter, NY, and joining them are newly elected Board members, Ungerouhiner MaryAnne Bonjuklian, Bergen County, NJ, and Silva Sagherian, “Tzolig” Chapter, MI. Ungerouhiner Simone Topouzian and Sandra Vartanian were elected as alternates Board members. The Convention thanked the five Detroit chapters “Maro”,”Shakeh”, “Sybille”, “Tzolig”, and “Zabel” for their hospitality and attentiveness to the needs of the attendees.
At the Convention banquet, the ARS Eastern USA Regional Executive Board recognized the outgoing Regional Executive Board members Unghs. Melissa Simonian, and Silva Bedian. Guest speakers included Khajag Mgrdichian (ARF CC), Caroline Chamavonian (ARS CE), and a dear guest from ARS Syria, ARS CE member Ungh Zepure Reisian. Ungh Reisian addressed the Convention on the current situation in Syria and the social and economic crisis facing the community of Aleppo in particular. The following Detroit ARS members were honored for their long, devoted dedication to the Armenian Relief Society. Unghs. Edna Avedisian and Carolyn Arslanian, “Maro” Chapter, Rita Dilanian and Sona Mishigian, “Sybille” Chapter, Alice Pilibosian and Sirvart Telbelian, “Shakeh” Chapter, and Shakeh Basmajian, “Tzolig” Chapter.
On this occasion, the ARS of Eastern USA Board of Directors honored Ung. Tatul Sonentz with their highest expression of appreciation, the “Agnouni Award”, named after its founder. The award is given to Unger Tatul Sonentz in deep appreciation of his long, unwavering service to the Armenian Relief Society and the Armenian Community at large. “I am honored to speak about an individual who has served the Armenian
community with the highest devotion through his involvement in various organizations,” said Ungh Talin Daghlian. Unger Tatul is the translator of several books of Armenian poetry published in English. He received the St. Mesrop Mashtots medal from Catholicos Aram I, in recognition of his lifelong service to Armenian culture, the ANCA “Cardashian” Award, as a life-long activist, promoting the Armenian Cause. Presently he manages the Archives and the Publications Department of the ARS, Inc. and edits the organization’s multilingual International Magazine, “Hai Sird”. Unger Sonentz accepted the Agnouni Award, with deep emotion. “I feel honored and humbled by this gesture of my beloved ARS,” he stated, “This honor belongs as much to the dedicated HOMuhis, without whose selfless support and assistance, over so many eventful years, I wouldn’t be standing here, holding this unique Award. My dear ungeruhis, with all humility, I thank you all.”
The evening ended with the exhilarating sounds of musician Vatche Zakarian and his band from Chicago.
The ARS of Eastern USA 2015 Raffle drawing took place at an intermission. The ARS of Eastern USA Board of Directors would like to thank all our supporters for purchasing raffle tickets. Winners are:
-1st prize Ralph Lauren Collection Equestrian Saddle Zip Tote in Maize. Ticket # 0580 ARS Shakeh Chapter, Detroit, MI
-2nd prize Gold bracelet with pearls donated by Mr. Khatchig Hagopian. Ticket # 1380 Lena Orangian, New York, NY
-3rd prize Diamond baby cross in white gold, donated by AK Jewelry. Ticket # 0017 Linda Tarzian, Ridgewood, NJ
-4th prize Handwoven 4×6 Tufenkian rug from the Kazak Collection donated by Tufenkian Artisan Carpets, NY. Ticket # 0136 Heather Krafian, Belmont, MA
-5th prize Dell Venue 8 Pro 64GB Tablet, value is $300. Ticket # 0652 Talar Tarakdjian, Henderson, NV
Proceeds of the benefit raffle support the educational and humanitarian programs and projects of the ARS.