ARS of Eastern USA Concludes 95th Annual Convention

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 four-day convention was attended by 39 accredited delegates from 21 ARS Eastern USA chapters. The delegates were joined by members of the ARS Eastern USA Regional Executive Board, as well as representatives from the ARS, Inc. Central Executive Board (Caroline Chamavonian), the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Central Committee (Khajag Mgrdichian), Homenetmen Eastern USA (Shant Jamgochian), and Hamazkayin Eastern Region (Shoghere Ourlian), and guests Tatul Sonentz, Angele Manoogian, Ani Attar, and Shakeh Basmajian. The convention body also invited Donna Katcherian of the “Maro” Chapter and Tamitza Dakissian of the “Tsolig” Chapter to join.

A scene from the convention (Photo: Helena Bardakjian)

ARS of Eastern USA Chairwoman 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.

Vicar General Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian (Photo: Helena Bardakjian)

Following the vicar’s opening remarks, Sonia Mishigian sang the ARS anthem and 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.

Daghlian introduced Chamavonian, who relayed the 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.

Angele Manoogian with Anahid and Aurelian Mardiros (Photo: Helena Bardakjian)

In the same spirit, 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.

ARF Eastern United States Central Committee member Khajag Mgrdichian (Photo: Helena Bardakjian)

The convention elected Silva Kouyoumdjian (“Shakeh” Chapter, New Jersey) and Simone Topouzian (“Maro” Chapter, Michigan) as its co-chairs. Silva Sagherian (“Tsolig” Chapter, Michigan), Anik Kechichian (“Shakeh” Chapter, New Jersey), Silva Jerikian (“Zabelle” Chapter, Illinois), and Helena Bardakjian (“Zabel” Chapter, Michigan) were elected as convention secretaries. Following the elections of the Nominating, Auditing and Budgeting, Correspondence, and Resolutions Committees, and the appointment of a parliamentarian, a reporter, and a sergeant-at-arms, the convention took a break for a reception.

ARS Central Executive member Zepure Reizian (Photo: Helena Bardakjian)

The meeting continued its agenda with the ARS CE 2014-15 report, presented by Caroline Chamavonian. Chamavonian highlighted the worldwide activities of the ARS through an engaging PowerPoint presentation. Another PowerPoint was prepared and shown by ARS of Eastern USA Secretary Melissa Simonian, showing ARS life throughout the Eastern Region.

The ARS Eastern USA participates fully in the ARS, Inc.’s worldwide programs, including the “Sponsor-A- Child” Program, providing funds for 7,000 orphans in Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh) since 1992; the “Orphan Education” Fund, assisting orphans in Armenia and Artsakh with post-secondary education financing; and the “Sosseh” Kindergartens, ARS “Mother & Child” Health Clinic, and Birthing Center, which provide health care and birthing facilities for families in Armenia’s Gyumri region. The ARS of Eastern USA has also supported the AYF “Javakhk Camp” as well as the Armenians of Syria through various ARS of Syria programs, such as “Hot Meal,” “Warm Home,” and “Sponsor a Syrian-Armenian Family.”

The Detroit Hamazkayin Dance Group (Photo: Helena Bardakjian)

ARS of Eastern USA Treasurer Margaret Babikian Medina presented the financial report as well as the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2015-16.

ARS of Eastern USA programs include the Youth Connect Program; ARS Undergraduate Scholarships and “Lazarian” Graduate Scholarships for students of Armenian heritage; and Armenian every-day and one-day school support. The ARS Eastern USA also provides Camp Haiastan’s educational program and camper assistance funds. These are only some of the projects that 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 on projections for the year ahead. It stressed the importance of rebuilding the Stepanakert “Sosseh” Kindergarten, considering its present dilapidated state. Delegates representing 21 chapters pledged $32,000 for the project. At the banquet, Angele Manoogian announced that Mr. and Mrs. Aurelian and Anahid Mardiros had generously donated $50,000 for the “Sosseh” Kindergarten project. The couple is well known as generous benefactors in the Greater Boston community.

The convention reviewed the Society’s annual report, approved a 2015-16 budget, and adopting 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.

ARS members and guests ‘Agnouni Award’ recipient Tatul Sonentz

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 the activities of this past year, and the past 105 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 to grow, 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.

Master of Ceremonies Lara Nercessian (Photo: Helena Bardakjian)

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/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 dinner hosted by the Detroit chapters. The hospitality was extended in every direction as delegates mingled with local community members 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 2015-16.

Continuing Board members are Talin Daghlian (“Agnouni” Chapter, New Jersey), Sevan Kolejian (“Satenig” Chapter, D.C.), Margaret Babikian (“Medina” Chapter, Bergen County, New Jersey), Taline Mkrtschjan (“Arax” Chapter, Rhode Island), and Sonia Bezdikian (“Mayr” Chapter, New York). Joining them are newly elected Board members MaryAnne Bonjuklian (Bergen County, New Jersey) and Silva Sagherian, (“Tsolig” Chapter, Michigan).

Incoming and outgoing members of the ARS Eastern USA Regional Executive Board (Photo: Helena Bardakjian)

The convention thanked the five Detroit chapters—“Maro,” “Shakeh,” “Sybille,” “Tsolig,” and “Zabel”—for their hospitality and attentiveness to the needs of the attendees.

At the banquet, the ARS Eastern USA Regional Executive Board recognized the outgoing Regional Executive Board members, Melissa Simonian and Silva Bedian. Guest speakers included Khajag Mgrdichian (ARF CC), Caroline Chamavonian (ARS CE liaison), and a dear guest from the ARS of Syria, ARS CE member Zepure Reisian, who 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: Edna Avedisian and Carolyn Arslanian (“Maro” Chapter), Rita Dilanian and Sona Mishigian (“Sybille” Chapter), Alice Pilibosian and Sirvart Telbelian (“Shakeh” Chapter) and Shakeh Basmajian (“Tsolig” Chapter).

The ARS Eastern USA Board of Directors honored Tatul Sonentz with the Society’s highest expression of appreciation, the ‘Agnouni Award,”’named after its founder (Photo: Helena Bardakjian)

The ARS Eastern USA Board of Directors also honored Tatul Sonentz with the Society’s highest expression of appreciation, the “Agnouni Award,” named after its founder. The award was given to Unger Tatul 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 Daghlian.

Tatul Sonentz is the translator of several books of Armenian poetry into English. He received the St. Mesrop Mashtots Medal from Catholicos Aram I in recognition of his lifelong service to the Armenian culture, and the ANCA “Cardashian” Award for his life-long activism in promoting the Armenian Cause. Presently he manages the Archives and the Publications Department of the ARS, Inc., and edits that organization’s multilingual International Magazine, “Hai Sird.”

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 ungerouhis, with all humility, I thank you all,” he said.

The evening ended with the exhilarating sounds of musician Vatche Zakarian and his band from Chicago.

The ARS Eastern USA 2015 raffle drawing took place at an intermission. The winners: 1st prize, Ralph Lauren Collection Equestrian Saddle Zip Tote in Maize, Ticket # 0580, ARS “Shakeh Chapter,” Detroit; 2nd prize, gold bracelet with pearls donated by Khatchig Hagopian, Ticket # 1380, Lena Orangian, New York, N.Y.; 3rd prize, diamond baby cross in white gold, donated by AK Jewelry, Ticket # 0017, Linda Tarzian, Ridgewood, N.J.; 4th prize, handwoven 4×6 Tufenkian rug from the Kazak Collection donated by Tufenkian Artisan Carpets, New York, Ticket # 0136, Heather Krafian, Belmont, Mass.; and 5th prize, Dell Venue 8 Pro 64GB Tablet, valued at $300, Ticket # 0652, Talar Tarakdjian, Henderson, Nev. Proceeds of the benefit raffle support the educational and humanitarian programs and projects of the ARS.

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Source: Armenian Weekly
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