The ARS “Shushi”
Chapter of Cambridge
In 1932, 10 young women formed the ARS Cambridge Chapter. The chapter was established in response to an expanding need to serve a growing Armenian community of new immigrants and Genocide survivors residing in Cambridge , MA . The chapter was founded in Ungh. Armenouhi Paghigian’s home in Inman Square. The founding members were Ungerouhiner Armenouhi Paghigian, Payloon Mouradian, Sina Kavoukjian, Aghavni Terzian, Victoria Gosdanian, Ung. Sahagian from Arlington, Takouhi Amirian, Kerakuyn Tufenkjian, Serpouhi Gelenian.
The Cambridge Chapter has a long record of community service and participation in the ARS’s regional and international humanitarian, social and educational projects. In the mid 1960s, the Cambridge Chapter joined forces with other Greater Boston ARS chapters to establish a Social Services Committee. To this day, the Committee exists to meet the needs of anyone who needs a helping hand, including assistance to the elderly and recent immigrants.
Besides participating in the patriotic endeavors, all chapters’ efforts were for fund raising to cover their annual quota to the central executive who in turn would allocate help wherever needed around the world. The main fund raising event for Cambridge Chapter was its annual luncheon which they called “hatzgerouyt”. Members with their babies in strollers, they would walk in Cambridge in the 1930’s and 1940’s, knock on every Armenian door, and stop at every Armenian store to sell the tickets for the “hatzgerouyt” The tickets were 25 cents. The luncheon took place in the Hairenik Building on Stuart St. in Boston (we did not have a church or center yet!). The second floor of the building was a hall with a stage. You know what our ungerouhis did? They took the cooked meal from their homes and by public transportation from Cambridge to Boston.
In 2004, the Cambridge Chapter adopted “Shushi” to its name in honor of the historic fortress city whose strategic mountain location played an integral part in the Artsakh Liberation Movement.
Some of our previous chapter members include: Digin Kamishlian, Araxi Ayvazian, Armine Dedekian, Srpoohi Gelenian, Sophie Gelenian, Angel Goshgarian, Makrouhi Guzelian, Vartiter Hovanessian, Mannig Hovsepian, Dickranouhi Jelalian, Sina Kavoukjian, Zvart Keosian, Nazan
Khachadoorian, Nvart Khanlian, Lusine Majarian, Heranoush Marsoubian,
Payloon Mouradian, Armenouhi Pahigian, Nvart Sahagian, Kerakouyn Toufankjian, Arpine Zildjian, Takoush Aftandilian, Anna Aghamianz, Shnorig Badalian, Chnorig Essajanian, Sousi
Keshishian, Araxi Khandjian, Suzanna Lachinian, Genik Minassian, Makrouhi Nahabedian, Anoush Tavitian, Zarouhi Zakarian, Adelina Stepanian, Seroon Yeghishian & Honorary ARS
member Der Torkom Hagopian.
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The ARS “Lousintak”
Chapter of Lowell
Although there is no record to document the exact founding date of an ARS chapter in Lowell , it is believed that one was founded in Lowell between 1910 and 1915. In 1915, the chapter participated in the first ARS Convention in Boston as a full fledged chapter.
The earliest chapter photograph in the Lousintak Chapter’s possession is dated 1917-1918 and pictures 15 members in classic Red Cross uniforms, taken when the chapter was known as the ARF Red Cross. From its beginnings, the chapter actively participated in relief work both in the United States and throughout the Diaspora, later adding assistance to Armenia and Karabagh to its duties.
The chapter reached an important milestone in December 1963 when it purchased a clubhouse for use by the Lowell community, located at 142 Liberty Street , Lowell . The “ARS House” – as it is affectionately known – has been the site of numerous local and regional AYF-YOARF, ARF, and ARS meetings and functions.
The Lowell chapter adopted the name “Lousintak” in1975 in honor of the chapter’s then-oldest member, Ungh Lousintak Narzakian. Today, although few members live in the City of Lowell , the chapter enjoys the participation of its active and auxiliary members.
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The ARS “Arax”
Chapter of Merrimack Valley
The Merrimack Valley Arax Chapter is one of the oldest chapters in the ARS Eastern United States and was founded by survivors of the 1915 Armenian Genocide. Early photographs of chapter members show proud women in nurse’s uniforms prepared to heal and serve the Armenian Nation. Lawrence was home to many mills in the early part of the 20 th Century, and the city drew Genocide survivors seeking work in a new land. Close in proximity to the ARS Lowell Lousintak Chapter, the Arax Chapter and the Lousintak chapter have held joint activities and fundraising projects. The Arax Chapter is also a long supporter of the ARS Summer Studies Program and AYF Camp Haiastan.
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The ARS “Ararat”
Chapter of Springfield
The Springfield “Ararat” Chapter was organized in 1931 as the Armenian Relief Corps and began its participation in the organization’s mission with 27 active members. As the 100th Anniversary approaches, a review of the Chapter activities shows the continuous involvement of its members in fulfilling the Society’s objectives within the Armenian and non-Armenian community of the Greater Springfield, Massachusetts, area.
Chapter membership includes granddaughters and daughters of deceased charter members, daughters of members, and others who have simply joined because of their belief in the objectives of the Society. Through the years the membership count has varied between 18 and 25.
Records of the Chapter indicated that the members have participated in various phases of the ARS activities. From 1937 to 1978 Saturday School classes were held for children. National and international speakers were invited to speak including such dignitaries as Levon Shant, Unghs. Siranoush Mekhiarian, Zabel Seropian, Kohar Tololyan and Houhi Ipekian-Boudakian. Annually, fundraising Huntesses were held with the traditional candle lighting ceremony. On several occasions during the 1940s, members acted in and produced Armenian plays as cultural and fundraising events. For the ARS’s 50th Anniversary, the Chapter presented “Our Heroines” written by Ung. Stella Rustigian (picture attached). During the Summer Studies programs held at Amherst College and at the University of Connecticut, the members have hosted students either on the respective college campuses or by inviting the students to picnics at St. Gregory’s Church, Indian Orchard. The 1991 Regional Convention was held in Springfield.
On the local level, the Chapter has contributed to the Springfield Red Cross when international disasters have occurred, hosted the Armenian doctors and nurses who came to Hartford for special training immediately following the 1988 earthquake in Armenia, has supported the Springfield Jewish Community Center in its 2002 presentation of the Armenian Library & Museum Armenian Genocide Exhibition, hosted Alive Norian, ARS benefactor, (picture attached) on many occasions when she was in Connecticut, and for several years presented an Armenian booth at the local International Festival as well as ungerhouhis volunteering hours to assists the Blind.
Chapter members Vart Hachigian and Arppie Charkoudian have served on the Central Executive. Sonia Arakelian has served on the Regional Board.
Ung. Charkoudian served several terms as international President and/or Treasurer. She was asked to comment on her experiences. She replied by referring to a statement she made at the end of her first term as President, “…we must not be afraid of change in order to meet the needs of today’s society.” (Hai Sird 1974) and commented on two projects involving “change” and “needs of today” that occurred during her tenure.
The first major project, she said, was to rewrite the international Constitution and Bylaws in order to convert the Society into a duly recognized international philanthropic organization. This was accomplished in 1980. The Society became an international entity with autonomous Regional bodies in the various worldwide countries where Armenians live.
Once the revised Bylaws were adopted, she continued, work on a second major project began- that of applying for NGO (Non-Government Organization) status at the United Nations. Ung. Charkoudian attended three biannual meetings (1984, 1986, 1988) at the United Nations where she presented the ARS petition to delegates from 19 countries to accept the Society as an NGO. Although the goal was not accomplished during her tenure due to opposition by the Soviet Union and Turkey, today the ARS enjoys the status of Consultative NHO at the United Nations. She said that she was invited to the meeting when the ARS was accepted and it have her great delight to see Russia’s full support of the proposal and defending it when Turkey once again objected.
Since 1910, the ARS has brought Armenian women together to serve and uphold the Society’s objectives that ultimately preserved their Armenian identity in their adopted countries not only for themselves but for their families. In Springfield, for instance, there was no Church until after 1959, but there was an organized and united Armenian community ready to join the Church when its doors opened.
The ARS “Leola Sasouni”
Chapter of Watertown
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The ARS “Knar”
Chapter of Worcester
The Worcester Knar Chapter was one of the first ARS chapters established in the United States .
For a time, there was one English-speaking and one Armenian-speaking ARS chapter in Worcester . Today, many of the chapter’s members are the children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren of its founding members.
After World War II, the Knar chapter became involved in the ANCHA project and welcomed displaced families from Rumania into their homes until appropriate housing could be found. Today’s chapter members either recall seeing household necessities being carried out of their homes to help another family get started in a home of their own or recall being the recipients of this generosity.
The Knar Chapter prides itself in its unwavering support for its community and church. The Knar Chapter plays an important role in various church and community fundraisers, picnics, bazaars, and dinners and frequently visits area nursing home residents. The chapter has also been ready to respond to international crises, including the 1988 earthquake in Gyumri , Armenia , purchasing clothing for the devastated survivors of that tragedy. The chapter also supports young people in the community with scholarships to attend AYF Camp Haiastan.
The Knar Chapter remembers that it is part of a larger community and promotes tolerance and understanding through various activities, including donations of books about the Armenian Genocide to the Worcester Public Library. To commemorate the Armenian Genocide’s 90 th anniversary, the chapter sponsored a month-long blood drive with the American Red Cross. The chapter also donates to Abby’s House, a shelter serving battered, homeless, and low-income women and children and Massachusetts Veterans Inc. in honor of local veterans.
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