DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla.—The sun shone brightly upon the Eastern Region Armenian Relief Society (ARS), whose members had gathered for its 92ndannual Convention hosted by the local “Sosseh” Chapter. And it never receded.
In all, 41 delegates from 19 chapters stepped forward in the line of duty, passing a dozen resolutions designed to create a better society for the Armenian lifestyle both here and abroad.
The list was prioritized by an immediate and hefty $22,000 collection to benefit Armenian schools in Syria impacted by the conflict now taking placed in that beleaguered country. That sum is expected to be augmented once word gets out internally throughout the organization.
Delegates pulled out their checkbooks and cell phones, donating one sum after another with a domino effect. Even the local musician hired for a gig complied with a donation.
The breakdown included $8,600 from individuals, complemented by $13,400 from chapters. Silva Kouyoumdjian, the outgoing chairwoman of the Eastern Region’s Executive Board, lauded the outpouring of support.
“Our members truly rose to the occasion, many of whom are from that region and have acquaintances there,” she said. “We pray for those who have been caught in the uprising and hope that conditions improve immensely in that battered land. Our students reflect the future of our heritage and anything we can do to provide for their welfare will be addressed by this organization.”
The delegation also set a goal of $25,000 to assist with a construction project calling for refurbished sanitation facilities at Camp Haiastan.
Aside from the appointed delegation, the following guests were invited: Muriel (Mimi) Parseghian, recipient of this year’s coveted Agnouni Award; Tom Vartabedian, who was presented an appreciation award for his coverage of ARS Eastern USA activities; Talin Daghlian, a venerable member from New Jersey; and Vahram Danielian, a catalyst from the Boca Raton, Fla. community.
Caroline Chamavonian, a Central Executive Board member, then relayed the ARS, Inc.’s message to the Convention. “In the progress of our nation, the ARS had its share, silently, without making any pretentious speeches and claims, as befits to a model Armenian mother and woman, the silent pillar of each Armenian home,” she said.
The Homenetmen Eastern Region message was given by Elizabeth Dramgotchian. Also present was Angele Manoogian, a member of the “Sosseh” Chapter and former Executive Board leader representing the ARF. She welcomed the gathering to her fold and wished the Convention continued success in what has already been a pivotal year.
“The responsibilities are yours to take the ARS to another level,” she encouraged. “You are the torchbearers of your organization. Keep that vigil intact.”
First a word about the Sosseh Chapter of South Florida, which was founded in 1985 in Fort Lauderdale: With small numbers but big hearts, the original 14 members made it their goals to endorse the good work of the ARS and have perpetuated that mantra over the 27 years with a host of projects.
Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Prelacy vicar, opened the Convention with some words to the wise. “You are perpetuating a sacred mission,” he told the members. “Our hearts beat for our children. 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 in the best spirit of conviviality.”
The ARS has much to celebrate these days with 15,000-plus members in 220 chapters throughout 27 countries. The Eastern USA is among the brightest stars in the galaxy with its efforts.
An all-encompassing PowerPoint presentation was prepared and shown by Executive Board member Carol Jaffarian, showing different modes of ARS life throughout the Eastern Region. Of particular consequence was the Lowell chapter, which honored 6 members with 50-plus experience this year.
Co-chairing the Convention were Taline Mkrtschjan and Sevan Kolejian, ably shifting from Armenian to English for better interpretation.
Elections took place in what can be described as a smooth transition. Re-elected were Ani Attar and Valentine Berberian, joined by newcomers Kolejian and Mkrtschjan. Attar was named the new chairwoman, replacing Kouyoumdjian at the helm.
Parseghian accepted the Agnouni Award, humbly but emotionally, dedicating the award to her late mother Nouritza, an active ARS member from the Lowell “Lousintak” Chapter. The award is named in honor of its founder in 1910 and is the highest bestowed by this entity.
On hand to witness the occasion were her close friends Angele Dulgarian, from her Lowell chapter, and Sandra Vartanian, who made the trip south from New York. The latter two were also AYF friends from years ago.
You could cut the sentiment with a knife.
“I am honored to speak about an individual who has served the Armenian community with highest devotion through her various organizations,” said Kouyoumdjian, who presented the award.
“I personally learned a lot from this ungerouhi—the ARS heart—and how to be unselfish and serve this organization where there is a need without any hesitation. She is my mentor, my teacher, my oldest sister, and my sincere ungerouhi. She’s always been there listening and directing me toward the betterment of the ARS.”
Following in her mother’s footsteps, Parseghian joined the ARS in 1980. She was born in France and moved with her family to Lowell in 1963. After graduating from Lowell public schools, she attended Northeastern University in Boston where she received a history degree in 1976.
She has served a number of terms on the ARS Regional Board of Directors as chairperson, vice-chairperson, and treasurer, along with one term on the ARS Central Executive Board of Directors. She also served as ARS liaison to the AYF Camp Haiastan Board of Directors.
Parseghian is a member of the Lowell “Aharonian” Gomideh. In 1983, she traveled to Beirut to attend the Armenology program at the Nishan Palandjian Jemaran. Upon her return to the United States in 1984, she became editor of the Armenian Weekly and later served as director of Camp Haiastan. For the past two decades, she’s been employed in sales and marketing at Majelite Corporation.
Taking the podium, Parseghian thanked the ARS for giving her life added sustenance and paid particular tribute to her ARS members from the Lowell Chapter, especially her mom who laid the foundation for her encouragement in the ranks. If anything, Parseghian personified her role by taking it to another level.
Also discussed at the Convention were the Youth Connect Program, Walk Armenia, scholarships, Soseh Kindergarten, Sponsor A Child/Orphans Education Fund, Century Club, Armenian National Education Committee, United Armenia Fund, Mother and Child Clinic in Armenia, along with other assorted humanitarian projects.
Particular focus was paid to unique chapter projects, financial affairs, membership, and public relations.
The group broke away for a scrumptious dinner hosted by the “Sosseh” Chapter in nearby Boca Raton with music and entertainment. The hospitality was extended in every direction as delegates mingled with locals and enjoyed seeing the youth perform. A local raffle drawn among participants saw Svetlana Babajanian as the 50/50 cash winner. She graciously donated $150 to the local Sosseh Chapter by her chapter, “Susan Terzian” of Connecticut.
Saturday’s formal dinner proceedings ushered in an ambitious agenda. Mistress of ceremonies Sose Tokatlian welcomed the gathering on behalf of the “Sosseh” Chapter, reiterating the $22,000 collected for Syrian school relief.
ARF Central Committee Chairman Antranig Kasbarian commended the gathering on behalf of his organization, taking careful note of the distinct personalities present. “Wherever there’s a need and cause, you’ll find the ARS,” he said. “This is the most diverse and multi-dimensional group I’ve seen. Your examples are to be emulated universally.”
Appreciation bouquets were presented by Silva Kouyoumdjian to Caroline Chamavorian, past executive, who has moved on to the Central Executive Board; to Varsen Bedrossian, who completed her second term on the regional board; and to Vartouhie Chiloyan for her exemplary service as executive secretary. Suzi Azarian, vice chairwoman, took the floor to present a bouquet to Kouyoumdjian, outgoing chairwoman, for her commitment and dedication to the organization over the past four years.
The evening ended with the exhilarating sounds of musician Stepan Ishkandarian and his band.
The ARS EUSA 2012 Raffle drawing took place at an intermission. Winners are:
1st prize ($1,500) went to ticket #001341 Margaret Bloxdorf of Racine, Wisc.
2nd prize ($1,000) went to ticket #001155 Avo Bazarian of Watertown, Mass.
3rd prize (14kt. ladies white gold cross necklace with sapphires and .25 ct. diamonds) went to ticket # 001761 Hasmig Eskandarian of McLean, Va.
4th prize (ladies Bulova watch) went to ticket #001174 Siran Cormier of Bedford, Mass.
5th prize (silver bracelet and earrings set) went to ticket #002533 Evlyn Davidian of Morton Grove, Ill.
Proceeds of the benefit raffle supports the educational and humanitarian programs and projects of the ARS. The ARS Eastern USA, Inc. extends its deepest appreciation to all those who purchased raffle tickets and congratulates all the winners.