WATERTOWN, Mass. — On Saturday, October 2, the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Eastern USA held a banquet in honor of the 100th convention in the hall of St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church.
The event kicked off with the singing of the Armenian anthem by Alla Petrosyan and the singing of the ARS anthem by Ani Zargarian of the ARS “Shushi” Chapter of Cambridge, MA. Then, ARS of Eastern USA chairperson Ani Attar welcomed the attendees to the banquet. In her remarks, Attar noted the ARS’ first convention on May 30, 1915 in the city of Boston. She recounted how the organization has changed since that first convention and has now become an international NGO working in 27 countries. Membership has grown from the dozens to the thousands, and it has now established schools, health centers and camps and invested in youth and educational programs. Attar also explained how both conventions have taken place during unprecedented times for our nation. “Despite the deep scars that we have, the ARS has continued to answer the calls of action and serve Armenians and non-Armenians alike,” she said, “We have continued to remain focused like a laser beam on our mission, and we will continue to extend our healing hands to all those who need us.”
In her formal remarks, ARS Central Executive Board (CEB) chairperson Nyree Derderian mentioned that the “ARS has represented the will, mercy and heart of the Armenian woman for decades.” “ARS has constantly evolved and grown in strength, with every turning point, without losing hope,” she went on to say. She thanked supporters who have continued to play a major role in the advancement of the organization. Silva Kouyoumdjian, Mayda Melkonian and Taline Mkrtschjan jointly presented the ARS Eastern USA with a congratulatory plaque on the occasion of the 100th convention.
Then, Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) Eastern Region Central Committee member Khajag Mgrdichian took the stage to congratulate the ARS of Eastern USA on its historic convention and the 111th anniversary of the organization. In his remarks, he stressed the importance of continually evaluating, self-criticizing and reassessing in order to improve and move forward. He reminded attendees that the ARS continues to thrive because of the strong foundations laid by founder Edgar Agnouni. Finally, he emphasized that the organization continues to prosper because it is deeply rooted in the ideological belief of a free, independent, and united Armenia.
Attar expressed the Board’s gratitude to the ARS Social Services Committee made up of members from the ARS “Leola Sassouni” Chapter of Watertown and the ARS “Shushi” Chapter of Cambridge. “They represent the very best of us, and the care and kindness they have shown on a daily basis and especially during the most challenging days of the pandemic inspired us all,” said Attar. Nevart Kouyoumdjian, Angela Hovanesyan, Shake Minasian, Sossi Bogharian, Louisa Kheremian and Mary Bazarian were presented with the ARS Service Award Certificates. Vany Tashdjian, Meline Topouzian-Berberian and Narineh Abrimian also received certificates in their absence.
The ARS of Eastern USA was proud to present this year’s Lifetime Achievement Award to Angele Manoogian for her extraordinary leadership and service. “Angele Manoogian is definitely a pillar in our organization and many other organizations in our community and region,” said Attar. “She has been an unwavering, staunch and deeply committed ARS leader, both on the regional level as well as on the international level.” A special video was created with photos of Manoogian’s activism, which highlighted her 28 visits to the homeland following the Spitak earthquake. During this time, she helped oversee the ARS’ $4 million in disaster relief efforts, which included the construction of 42 homes, a new kindergarten, the Nigol Aghpalian School and the prenatal clinic, the distribution of food and milk, kerosene heaters, sewing and weaving equipment, baby layette sets, prosthetics for the handicapped, medical equipment, medication and the funding for the Leninakan (currently, Gyumri) nurse and physician training project. Manoogian received a standing ovation as she accepted her award.
In her speech, Manoogian thanked the ARS of Eastern USA for bestowing this award and told the audience that the oath she took many decades ago inspires her everyday to serve this organization, the homeland and the people. She then humbly recalled the ARS of Eastern USA office staff who worked under her leadership, many of whom were in the audience (Seda Aghamianz, Maral Habeshian, Ruzan Khatchadourian, Sona Tunkerian and Nartoohi Abrimian). Many congratulatory messages were read, and donations to the ARS of Eastern USA were announced.
During the presentation of the Agnouni Award to the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), Attar thanked the organization for working around the clock in the political trenches to safeguard our collective priorities: a safe, secure and prosperous Armenia; a free and independent Artsakh; truth and justice for the Armenian Genocide; and an energized, inspired and sustainable Armenian Diaspora. “The ANCA serves as the defender of the Armenian nation and its cause throughout the United States,” said Attar. Accepting the award on behalf of the ANCA was Dikran Kaligian of ANC-Boston. In his remarks, Kaligian remembered pioneers of the Armenian cause like Vahan Cardashian and all those in the first generation who worked quietly and behind the scenes to create the modern Hai Tahd movement. He said that he accepted the award not only on behalf of the Washington, DC office, but on behalf of every chapter and activist.
His Eminence Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian was also in attendance. His powerful message focused on the importance of service to the Armenian nation. He recalled that the ARS is “not only a philanthropic organization, but it is the embodiment of the Armenian spirit.”
Attar, an outgoing member of the Board of Directors, as well as Johanna Chilingirian and Sandra Vartanian (in absentia) were congratulated for their work and presented with bouquets for their dedicated service to the ARS over the past four years.
Throughout the evening, local young artists from Boston including Alla Petrosyan, Hovig Kacherian and Mher Mnatsakanyan’s band entertained the guests with recitations of poems, songs and instrumentals.
The program concluded with a prayer led by Rev. Archpriest Antranig Baljian of St. Stephen’s Armenian Apostolic Church of Greater Boston and the singing of “Giligia.”
Community members can watch segments of the banquet on YouTube.