PARK RIDGE, N.J.—The 96th Annual Convention of the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Eastern USA, hosted by the Agnouni, Bergen, Shake and Spitak ARS chapters of New Jersey, convened on Fri., July 15, at the Park Ridge Marriott Hotel in New Jersey. Nineteen chapters were represented with 38 delegates, as well as the Board of Regional Directors.
Central Executive Board Chairwoman Ungeruhi Caroline Chamovanian, ARS Central Executive Board representative Ungeruhi Silva Kouyoumdjian, Canadian Regional Chairwoman, Ungeruhi Arminee Karabetian, and Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Eastern U.S. Central Committee member Unger Khajag Mgrdichian attended as guests. Other guests included Ungeruhi Valentine Berberian (Mayr, N.Y.), Ungeruhi Gemma Vartanian (Erebouni, N.Y.), and Ani Panossian Mouradian. Many local New Jersey and New York chapter members attended the convention as observers.
The convention was called to order by the Eastern Region’s Board of Directors Chairwoman Ungeruhi Talin Daghlian who welcomed the delegates and thanked those present. She invited attendees to stand for a moment of silence in memory of departed ARS members and in honor of the heroes of Artsakh and for those in Syria. Daghlian also thanked the organizing committee and the New Jersey chapters for hosting the convention.
Daghlian reminded the delegates that the annual report was thoughtfully prepared and should be reviewed carefully because based on its assessment, the attendees would decide on the Board’s direction for the next year. She emphasized that it is the responsibility of the delegates to establish thoughtful suggestions and resolutions for the coming year.
Ungeruhi Silva Kouyoumdjian, Central Executive Board (CEB) representative, then led in the singing of the ARS anthem. The meeting then proceeded with the election of the temporary chairs who later became the permanent chairs; they were Ungeruhis Shakeh Basmajian and Seran Tcholakian, both of Michigan. Elected English Secretaries were Unger Manoog Kaprielian and Ungeruhi Dalida Shadoyan Ghoussoub, the Armenian Secretaries were Ungeruhis Elizabeth Dramgotchian and Vartouhi Koumrigian. Resolution Committee members were Ungeruhis Ani Gulbenk, Linda kechejian, and Svetlana Babajanyan. This was followed by the election of the many committees that are required as per the convention requirements.
The report of the Central Executive Board was presented by Ungeruhi Silva Kouyoumdjian, who serves as treasurer and liaison to the Eastern Region. Daghlian, who represented the Eastern region at the 71rst convention, reported on the CEB 71st International Convention held in Armenia last October.
In the afternoon, the Board of Regional Directors’ Annual Report was presented by Ungeruhi Sevan Kolejian, which was followed by a question and answer session. Then the treasurer’s report was given by Ungeruhi Margie Babikian Medina. Most of the programs and projects were discussed later on during the convention.
Prior to the close of the day’s session, many fundraising activities were discussed, such as the Online Auction, the Art Show, Walk Armenia, the Annual Raffle (that will resume in 2016-17), and the upcoming Shadoyan Fashion Show that will take place on Thurs., Oct. 6. In a tremendously benevolent gesture, a number of chapters spontaneously donated money to help defray the costs for this event.
The opening ceremonies and a buffet reception were held Friday evening at the hotel, hosted by the ARS New Jersey four chapters. Representing the Armenian Prelacy of America, Rev Fr. Bozoyan, pastor of Sts. Vartanantz church, provided an invocation for the meal and expressed his best wishes for a successful convention.
Khajag Mgrdichian, ARF Central Committee executive member and liaison to the ARS of Eastern USA Board of Directors, acknowledged and appreciated the eastern region for always supporting its brothers and sisters in Syria and Artsakh, and wished the delegates a very successful convention. Yeghpayr Hovsep Minasian of Homenetmen and Ungeruhi Talin Mavlian Barsemian of Hamazkayin delivered their messages on behalf of their organizations with hopes that the organizations will continue to work together to achieve its goals.
On behalf of the Armenian Youth Federation of the Eastern Region, Ungeruhi Vartenie Kachichian, President of the AYF-YOARF New Jersey Arsen Chapter, expressed her appreciation to the ARS of Eastern Region by stating, “The relationship between ARS and the AYF is very important to us. The ARS of Eastern USA provides opportunities to AYF members such as helping with funds at Camp Haiastan and encouraging us with scholarships as well as being a local backbone to support our chapters with anything we need.”
The evening allowed the delegates and others to socialize and enjoy the well prepared delicacies.
On Saturday, the topics of the convention were organizational in nature: public relations, membership drive, and financial resources. The delegates had a chance to further discuss eastern regional programs and projects such as the Youth Connect Program, the Armenian National Educational Council (ANEC), and Camp Haiastan. Afterwards, a report on the projects/programs that this region sponsors in Armenia, Javakhk, and Artsakh were presented and discussed. All of the committees reported to the delegates, the final report of the Resolutions Committee was presented and the proposed budget of the 2016-17 fiscal year was approved.
The convention then welcomed Anahid Mesrobian, who was hired by the CEB to administer the Sponsor an Orphan program in Armenia since its inception. Mesrobian reported on the status of the orphans. She explained that because of the most current conflicts in Karabagh, more than 100 orphans are available for sponsorship and 300 are available for support through the Orphan Education Fund. These are orphans who have aged out and now require support for their college education. Mesrobian relayed her deepest gratitude to the region for the support it has provided to more than 1,000 orphans since the program began, and encouraged the attendees to continue to support the orphans who are still in need of sponsors.
As the last agenda item of the day, the election for the Regional Board was held. The nominating committee presented a slate of nominees for the 2016-17 Board of Regional Directors, which was followed by the election. The ARS Regional Board of Directors for the 2016-17 year are as follows: Talin Daghlian, (Agnouni, N.J.) and Sonia Bezdikian (Mayr, N.Y.), both re-elected for their second term; as well as new board members Sandra Vartanian (Erebouni, N.Y.) and Johanna Chilingirian (Sushi, Cambridge). The remaining board members are MaryAnne Bonjuklian (Bergen County, N.J.), Margie BabikianMedina (Bergen County, N.J.), and Silva Sagherian (Tzolig, Mich.). Two alternates were also elected and they are Nartouhi Abrimian (first delegate) and Ani Gulbenk (second delegate).
The convention banquet commenced in a ballroom at the Park Ridge Marriott. Daghlian welcomed the attendees to the banquet. Silva Kouyoumdjian of the ARS Central Executive Board and Ungeruhi Arminee’ Karabetian, chairperson of ARS of Canada’s Regional Board, gave their messages.
It was a special evening in that ARS members had been nominated by their chapters to receive the “Year of Service” awards. This year was proclaimed the “Year of Service” by His Holiness Catholicos Aram I. The awards were presented by the ARS of Eastern USA Board of Directors to acknowledge the service of individual members for their dedication, leadership, and commitment to the ARS of Eastern USA. The following members received their award at the Banquet: Gemma Vartanian (Erebouni, N.Y.), Talin Daghlian (Agnouni, N.J.), Margie Babikian Medina (Bergen County, N.J.), Anais Tcholakian (Mayr, N.Y.), Shnorig Karakelian and Dori Keshkegian (Ani, Pa.), Kayane Shirozian Barzakian (Artemis, Pa.), Sue Navarian and Alice Bajaksozian (Artsakh, Ohio), Stella Bandazian (Hooys, Va.), Varsenig Dostourian Cotter (Knar, Mass.), Marie Bazarian (Leola Sassouni, Mass.), Varsen Bedrossian (Satenig, D.C.), Sirvart Telbelian (Shakeh, N.J.), Osanna Kalvonjian (Soseh, Wisc.), Shoghig Manoukian (Spitak, N.J.), Azaduhe Vartanian (Sybille, Mich.), Shoushan Fermanian (Tsolig, Mich.), Takouhy Artinian (Zabelle, Ill.).
A special presentation of the Agnouni Award was made by Chairwoman Daghlian. The Agnouni Award was presented to Ungeruhi Valentine Berberian as an acknowledgment for her many years of service as representative and coordinator of ARS delegates and activities at the United Nations. Berberian graciously accepted the award and thanked the ARS for providing her the opportunity to serve.
Outgoing Board of Directors members Sevan Kolejian (vice chairperson) and Taline Mkrtschjan (in absentia) were congratulated for their work, and presented with special gifts for their dedicated service to the ARS throughout the past four years.
The program was followed by entertainment by musicians Maral and Megheri Tutunjian, who provided a vocal and flute duet performance of Armenian songs, and the Huyser Musical Ensemble of St. Illuminator’s Cathedral, who performed Armenian patriotic songs.
The 96th ARS EUSA convention was adjourned after the completion of Sunday’s agenda. Participants, guests, and delegates alike offered gratitude to the New Jersey chapters for hosting this convention and expressed sentiments about the weekend. The delegates returned home with a clearer understanding of what the ARS will be working toward in the coming year.