Grassroots Stars to Be Honored with Vahan Cardashian Awards

ANCA-WR's Vahan Cardashian Award recipients Ani Martirosian, James Kalustian, Bearj Barsoumian, Anna Turcotte, and Ani Haroian

LOS ANGELES—The Armenian National Committee of America Western Region (ANCA-WR) announced Friday that it will honor Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, Ani Haroian, Bearj Barsoumian, James Kalustian, and Ani Martirosian with the ANCA-WR Vahan Cardashian Award at its Annual Gala Banquet on Sunday, Nov. 2, at the world-famous Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills.

“The heart and soul of the ANCA-WR is its grassroots, the second army of the Armenian nation spread throughout every town, every city, and every state in the United States who dedicate themselves to the advancement of the Armenian Cause. Our unprecedented number of accomplishments wouldn’t have been possible if it weren’t for Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, Ani Haroian, Bearj Barsoumian, James Kalustian, and Ani Martirosian and so many others who helped lead the way in their respective hometowns,” noted ANCA-WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan. “The unremitting contributions that each of them have made is what Vahan Cardashian stood for and the vision he shared. We are proud to bestow this honor to a very deserving group of ANCA grassroots stars,” added Asatryan.

The award is named for Yale-educated lawyer Vahan Cardashian who set aside his successful New York practice to dedicate himself to the establishment of the American Committee for the Independence of Armenia (ACIA), predecessor organization to the Armenian National Committee, and to advocate for the plight of the Armenian nation.

Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, Esq.: A Baku pogroms survivor and noted author, Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte successfully spearheaded and sought through legislation in the State of Maine House of Representatives recognizing the independence of the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) and called upon both the U.S. President and Congress to do the same. The joint resolution, HP-987, in a series of whereas clauses, set forth the facts regarding Artsakh and its enduring struggle, with the support of the American people, for freedom in the face of both Soviet and, more recently, Azerbaijani intolerance, violence, and outright aggression.

In 2012 Anna published her book, titled “Nowhere, a Story of Exile,” which she wrote at the age of 14 as her family settled in North Dakota. The book is based on the childhood diaries she kept as her family was fleeing Baku, Azerbaijan and during life in Armenia as a Baku refugee. Anna spoke about the plight of Armenians of Baku and Artsakh on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and in the European Parliaments in Brussels, Belgium. Armenia, Artsakh, and ICC. Anna is the recipient of the Mkhitar Gosh Medal, Republic of Armenia’s highest civilian honor awarded by President Serzh Sargsyan, as well as the Gratitude Medal from the President of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, Bako Sahakyan.

Ani Haroian: Coming through the ranks of the AYF Junior and Senior organization to become a 39-year member of the ARF, current Deputy Chief of Staff to Providence Mayor Angel Taveras, Ani Haroian led efforts to ensure passage of the historic resolution in the State of Road Island calling on the U.S. President and Congress to recognize the independence of Artsakh. The resolution also encouraged the republic’s “continued efforts to develop as a free and independent nation,” and praised Artsakh’s “constructive involvement with the international community and its efforts to reach a lasting solution to the existing regional problems”.

Born in Marseille, France to Krikor and Nouritza Parseghian, Haroian is the granddaughter of survivors of the Armenian Genocide from the village of Gurden in Yozgat. Ani previously served as Director of Community Relations for the former Mayor David Cicilline, who currently serves in the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to returning to the Executive Office of the City of Providence, Haroian served as a senior staff member to then-Attorney General Sheldon Whitehouse and Attorney General Patrick Lynch.

Haroian is a member of the Rhode Island Democratic State Committee and served as a delegate to the National Democratic Convention in Boston. She has worked on numerous campaigns, including those of U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman James Langevin, Congressman David Cicilline, and the gubernatorial campaign of Myrth York. She has also managed the coordination of statewide field operations in General Elections. She serves on the Community Action Partnership of Providence (CAPP) Board of Directors and is the volunteer coordinator for “Feed 1000,” a non-profit that provides over 1,000 Thanksgiving meals to the homeless. Ani is also the recipient of the Mkhitar Gosh” Medal, awarded on September 16, 2013 by President Serzh Sargsyan on the occasion of the 22nd anniversary of the declaration of independence of the Republic of Armenia.

Bearj Barsoumian:
Born in Ain al-Arab, located on the border of Turkey and raised in Aleppo, Syria, Bearj Barsoumian and his family moved to the United States in 1977 and settled in Chattanooga, TN where he is currently a member of the Armenian Church of Nashville and the Chattanooga Tea Party.

In March 2014, working closely with the ANCA, Bearj was able to stop the passage of HR 145, an anti-Armenian resolution initiated by pro-Azerbaijan forces in the State of Tennessee. Bearj was also the grassroots star behind stopping a similar resolution from passing in Alabama.

In the weeks leading up to committee consideration of the measure, Bearj rallied Armenian Americans throughout the State to oppose the resolution, with activists meeting with over a dozen state legislators, educating them about the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh and Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade and aggression against the historically Christian states. In many cases, Tennessee Armenians traveled for over two hours to share their concerns with Tennessee House leaders.

During the course of stopping the resolution in TN, Bearj was able to uncover questionable actions by Representative Joe Towns (D) who introduced the resolution in the State Legislature. The representative had accepted indirect campaign contributions from agents of Azerbaijan to put this bill in front of the State House. The story was televised on a Nashville station and was rebroadcasted during the 2014 ANCA Telethon.

James Kalustian: ANCA member and President of the Armenian Heritage Foundation James Kalustian is no stranger to the community as the organization, under his leadership, spearheaded the Armenian community’s efforts to secure parcel 13 and built Armenian Heritage Park (dedicated to the memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide) on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston, MA.

Due to Kalustian’s unremitting efforts, the House of Representatives of the State of Massachusetts adopted a resolution condemning the killings of Armenians in Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku and acts of violent repression by Azerbaijan against the peaceful demonstrations for self-determination in Artsakh. The document notes that today, the “Nagorno-Karabakh’s security continues to be threatened by Azerbaijan’s hostile acts” while also urging “the President and Congress of the USA to support the self-determination and democratic independence of Artsakh.”

Kalustian is involved in numerous other philanthropic, religious, and educational organizations, including, Ordained Deacon of the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Supreme Religious Council, Rose Kennedy Greenway Conservancy Board – appointed by the Governor of MA, Diocesan Council, Armenian Church of America, Eastern, Holy Trinity Armenian Church – parish council, The Harvard College Fund – Leadership Giving, National Association of Armenian Studies and Research: Board, The Visiting Committee: Department of Radiation Oncology – Massachusetts General among others. Professionally, Kalustian has spent the past 25 years founding and helping to scale entrepreneurial healthcare services and technology businesses.

Kalustian has been honored with the St. Gregory the Illuminator and St. Nersess Shnorhali medals from His Holiness Karekin II, Ellis Island Medal of Honor, Movses Khorenatsi Medal from the President of the Republic of Armenia, Medal of Appreciation “Erakhdakeedootiun” – Nagorno Karabakh.

Ani Martirosian Menon: An Armenian-American who has made Hawaii home for the past 16 years has organized the Hawaiian community within moments notice to send hundreds of letters to officials that led to a pair of Azerbaijan-initiated anti-Armenian measures to fail.

On February 12, 2014, Martirosian, along with her fellow citizens, stood before the Hawaii House of Representatives Committee on Veterans, Military, & International Affairs, & Culture and the Arts and delivered a compelling, comprehensive, and persuasive argument against measures H. R. 9. and H.R. 13 before the Committee moved to reject the two anti-Armenian resolutions. Both profoundly biased and factually flawed measures were reportedly introduced at the bequest of the Azerbaijani government, a major breach of diplomatic protocol, confirmed publicly by State Rep. Rida Cabanilla, who was quoted in “Civil Beat,” a Hawaii publication, as saying that: “The resolutions came from Elin Suleymanov, Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to the United States.”

Martirosian has a Juris Doctorate from the Richardson School of Law, but is an entrepreneur at heart. She successfully co-founded AMS Naturals, a made-in-Hawaii products company focused on health and well-being. Ani has worked on legislative issues at the Hawaii State Capitol, completed a fellowship on anti-corruption and human rights policy in Armenia, and has worked on various criminal cases with the Hawaii Innocence Project. In her spare time, she teaches a “Crimes and Criminals” course at Hawaii Pacific University and champions causes close to her heart.

The 2014 ANCA-WR Annual Gala Banquet will be held on Sunday, November 2, 2014 at the world-famous Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA. The main event will begin at 5:00 p.m. with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a silent auction. A three-course dinner will follow at 6:30 p.m. with a powerful program and presentation of awards.

This year’s honorees include, His Excellency Bako Sahakyan, President of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (Artsakh), CA Senate President Pro Tempore Elect Kevin de Leon, Mr. Vahe Karapetian, the Near East Foundation, in honor of the efforts of the Near East Relief in the immediate aftermath of the Armenian Genocide, David Balabanian, Esq., and ANCA Grassroots Stars from across the nation, Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, Ani Haroian, Bearj Barsoumian, James Kalustian, and Ani Martirosian.

Individuals interested in attending the Annual Gala Banquet are encouraged to purchase tickets online at ancawr.org/gala, itsmyseat.com, or call 818.533.8587. To obtain individual or corporate sponsorship information visit ancawr.org/gala/sponsorship or call (818) 500-1919. For up to the minute updates on the event like the ANCA Western Region Facebook page or visit ancawr.org/galanews.

The ANCA-WR Gala Banquet represents the single largest annual gathering of Armenian American public policy leaders throughout the western United States, and is attended by over 1,000 prominent Members of Congress, state legislators and officials, community leaders, and many of the organization’s strongest activists and generous donors from California, Nevada, Arizona, and throughout the western United States.

The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

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