GLENDALE—Five years following the establishment of the Armenian Relief Society in New York in 1910, the ARS of Western USA gained its first chapter in Fresno in 1915, named the Mayr Chapter. Soon after, ARS chapters blossomed throughout the Western United States and, currently, 27 chapters mark their presence in these communities.
Upon establishing itself as a separate entity in 1984, the ARS of Western USA continued to broaden its scope of service extending beyond local communities to Armenia, Artsakh, and Javakhk. With each passing year, ARS Regional Executive Boards continue to solidify the presence of the organization throughout this region through their wide-reaching humanitarian activities and projects.
This article highlights some of the key activities and projects of the ARS of Western USA following the ARS 92nd Annual Regional Convention, which convened on July 27-29, 2012. During this Convention, delegates elected the following Regional Executive Board members: Lena Bozoyan (Chairperson), Carmen Libaridian (Vice-Chairperson), Armenouhi Tomassian (Secretary), Liza Santikian (Treasurer), Zharmen Mirzakhanyan, Karine Barikian-Setian, Christina Khanjian, Judy Jingirian, and Angele Ohannessian.
The newly elected Board made assistance efforts to Armenians in Syria one of its utmost priorities and, in following a resolution passed during the Convention, raised nearly $60,000 benefiting the ARS Central Executive’s “Fund for Assistance to Syrian Armenian Schools.” Moreover, the ARS brought its participation to the Syrian Armenian Relief Fund, a joint committee formed to bring its assistance to the Syrian Armenian community.
Alongside Syrian Armenian relief efforts, the Board focused on further expanding its scope within the community by strengthening its collaboration with other local non-profit organizations, and continuing its positive partnerships with Armenian organizations as well. The ARS Social Services Division stands true to its mission of offering a wide variety of general social services to those in need, as does the ARS Child, Youth, and Family Guidance Center by offering free psychological services.
In staying faithful to its mission of promoting education, fourteen Saturday Schools and one day care operate in the western region, allowing children the opportunity to learn the Armenian language, history, and more. On October 6, 2012, the ARS Fresno Sophia Chapter, in partnership with the Holy Trinity Armenian Apostolic Church, opened its doors to a new Saturday School in the Fresno community.
Since the start of the new fiscal year, ARS chapters carry on actively organizing both internal and public events. As such, the ARS Santa Monica Gars Chapter celebrated its 35th anniversary and the Fresno Sophia Chapter recently celebrated its 60th anniversary.
On December 5, 2012, a delegation of ARS representatives met with U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Armenia John Heffern at the Glendale Central Library and discussed issues of importance to Armenians.
The ARS of Western USA also continues its support to Armenia, Artsakh, and Javakhk. As such, the region has participated in the Sponsor-A-Child program, which celebrated its 20th anniversary recently. Moreover, two ARS “Sosse” Kindergartens are sponsored in the villages of Ashan and Aganapert in Artsakh, and assistance is also provided to all other ARS kindergartens as well. With great regard for Armenians in Javakhk, three youth centers are sponsored in the region.
The past holiday season was most special, whereby on December 19, 2012 a grant Gift Giving Event was held for children, during which each child and youth who entered the Regional Headquarters received a free Christmas gift. Further, on December 21, 2012, a Christmas Luncheon was hosted for nearly 250 needy individuals and families at the Glendale Salvation Army.
Keeping in mind the importance of mental health and social issues, the ARS and Pacific Clinics partnered to offer a series of community forums every Wednesday starting November 28th through December 19, 2012, each of which featured a distinguished panel offering their expertise on topics, including Substance Abuse and Drug Addiction; Depression, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder & Anxiety; Issues of Immigrants; Divorce and Child Custody, respectively.
ARS activities have had the support of His Eminence Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Prelate of the Western Prelacy, including his presence at the traditional ARS New Year & Christmas celebration where members greeted 2013.
While the above-mentioned provides a mere sampling of activities spearheaded by the ARS of Western USA, it is without a doubt that given the ever changing needs of our communities, the ARS and its members remain faithful to continuing their service to those in need.