ARS Shoushi Chapter Celebrates 20th Anniversary

Community members gather for the ARS Shoushi candlelighting ceremony

Founding member Verjine Koujakian Honored

LAS VEGAS—Named after the liberated city of Shoushi in Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (Arstakh), the Armenian Relief Society of Western US Shoushi Chapter of Las Vegas celebrated the 20th anniversary of the chapter and Saturday school during a gala dinner on September 28 at Desert Willow Golf Course in Henderson, Nevada.

Following the singing of the national anthems, Archpriest Fr. Avedis Torossian of the St. Garabed Armenian Apostolic Church in Las Vegas blessed the tables.

The ARS Shoushi Saturday School Principal, Houry Darakjian, emceed the event, which was attended by 275 supporters from the local community, as well as from Los Angeles county and as far away as New York and New Jersey. Rev. Fr. Vazken Atmajian, who represented the Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirsossian, commended the dedicated service of the chapter members and the Saturday School faculty.

Darakjian also introduced other guests including ARS Regional Executive board chairperson Lena Bozoyan, Western Prelacy Executive Council Chairperson Rima Boghossian, as well representatives of the Las Vegas ARF Ishkhan Committee, Homenetmen Artsakh Chapter, and the St. Garabed Church Board of Trustees. Darakjian noted how proud she felt to see the community come together to honor and support the work of the ARS chapter and Saturday school. The event honored the memory of Verjine Koujakian, a founding member of the Las Vegas Shoushi Chapter and Saturday School. The honoree’s children attended with their families: Lucy and Vahe Fattal, Terenig and Rita Koujakian, and Arda and Alex Yemenidjian.

ARS Shoushi Chapter Executive Chairperson Lila Darakjian welcomed everyone, thanked Arda Yemenidjian for all her efforts to help with the success of the event, her chapter executive, as well as Arsho Mahseredjian, Houry Darakjian and Meline Terzian who worked very hard to help organize the event. She asked Yemenidjian, who followed her mother’s, Verjine Koujakian’s footsteps to come forward to accept a gift in memory of her mother as a symbol of the chapter’s appreciation.

Arda Yemenidjian graciously accepted the Mount Ararat sculpture by Michael Aram and related how she found out in May 1992 that they had to move to Las Vegas, she was worried about raising her children in the Armenian culture. Her mother told her, “Don’t worry, I’ll come with you”. Within a month, they had moved and her mother had convinced the Las Vegas Spring Valley Library to allow holding Armenian classes on Saturdays. Yemenidjian said that any time her mother would meet an Armenian family, she would convince them to send their children to the Saturday school. Yemenidjian was sorry that her father was not alive to see her mother take on such a responsible role to carry on the Armenian language and culture. He too had cared so much for the Armenian people.

Yemenedjian then invited her mother’s first non-Armenian adult student, Cheri Ovayan, to say a few words. Ovayan had learnt to speak Armenian before meeting the family of her now husband, in order to gain their acceptance.

ARS Regional Executive Chairperson Lena Bozoyan, said that Verjine Koujakian would have been so proud tonight to hear her own grandson sing beautifully “Im anoush Mayrig”, a rendition that is a favorite in our community from Armenian Public Radio. She added that Koujakian’s dedication and love instilled in all of us the value of giving back to the community, and that the network of the ARS Saturday Schools continues to tend to children who would be oblivious to our culture and heritage had it not been to dedicated individuals and generous donors. Bozoyan said that the ARS will continue to empower, help, sponsor and service tirelessly, and to strive for a better tomorrow for the youth. She praised the dedication of the ARS Shoush Chapter members and congratulated the chapter by presenting a plaque on behalf of the Regional Executive to the Chapter Executive Chairperson, Lila Darakjian.

The program featured singer Joseph Krikorian from Los Angeles, with guest appearances by Saro Koujakian and Armenian Public Radio. The ARS Shoushi Chapter provided a memorable experience to all those who attended the program, which concluded with a candle lighting and cake cutting ceremony.

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