In Little Armenia, AYF Teams with Local Hospital to Save Lives with Blood Drive


LITTLE ARMENIA–For 12 hours on Thursday, March 5, the auditorium of Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center was overflowing with activity, as nearly a hundred young Armenia’s poured in throughout the day to join members of the community in donating blood to the American Red Cross.

A single donation of one pint of blood can help save the lives of up to three people. Even though it’s an easy way to make a difference, few people surprisingly donate. This year, the Armenian Youth Federation teamed up with Hollywood Presbyterian, the Red Cross and other community organizations to break that trend, reaching out to volunteers from the Armenian community in an effort to educate, motivate, and activate potential donors.

“The hospital’s outreach to the Little Armenia community led to a natural partnership with the AYF,” explained the organization’s chairman, Vache Thomassian, who spent his day at the hospital helping staff accommodate the large influx of donors answering the AYF’s call to action.

Avo Shanlian, a member of the Pasadena chapter of the AYF, was among the first to arrive on site that day, anxiously waiting for two hours to donate his blood. “Our participation is necessary and required,” he exclaimed when asked why he had taken time out of his day to donate. “I grew up on stories about how the world turned a blind eye to my people as they were being killed in the genocide, now I have an opportunity to save three lives, and I’m taking it.”

“Our community needs to lead by example,” Shanlian stressed. And his chapter did just that; by donating 10 pints of blood to the Red Cross, they saved 30 lives in less than a day.

Throughout the day, AYF members from across southern California helped maintain a steady flow of donors into the hospital’s auditorium, with chapters in Hollywood, Burbank, La Crescenta, Montebello, Orange County, Torrance, Pasadena, and the San Fernando Valley all having joined together to mobilize their respective communities behind the important project.

“The overwhelming response of our membership to this blood-drive shows how concerned the youth is with the well being of our community, Thomassian said. “Hollywood Presbyterian is a vital institution in Little Armenia and as the largest and most active Armenian youth organization in Southern California, we felt it was our responsibility to take part in planning and implementing this blood drive.”

Many of the blood-drive participants shared Thomassian’s sense of responsibility for the community’s well being. Some at the drive even said they were hoping their participation would motivate others to be more active in the community.

Indeed, that turned out to be the case as eleven students from the Hollywood Rose and Alex Pilibos Highschool arrived after school to join the drive. “I heard about the blood drive through the AYF and Little Armenia is my home away from home so it only made sense to come out and participate,” said Vazrig Aprahamian, a senior at Pilibos, who along with his friends, was donating blood for the first time. “It was very gratifying knowing that I saved three lives.”

For Serena Vartazarian, it was particularly inspiring to see “the AYF mobilize so many youth not a part of the organization to participate in an activity that directly affects the lives of so many people in the area.”

By the time Vartazarian arrived, the hospital had received more donors than it could handle. “All of us who had scheduled to go down got text messages saying that they had such a great turnout and that there were so many people, the Red Cross couldn’t handle more. But I decided to go down there and I saw a lot of Armenian youth ready and waiting to donate,” she added. “Most of us waited about 2 hours before we could get in but it was worth it.”

“They overwhelmed us with their support and dedication with boatloads of donors,” exclaimed Caeser Fontanilla of the Red Cross, commenting on how excited he had been all day to see one young Armenian after another donate in support the Red Cross and the community Hospital.

“The AYF was probably the largest contributor to this blood-drive,” he added.

Jay Yoo, the Director of Special Projects at HPMC, was similarly impressed with the large turnout. The Armenian community is an integral part of Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center, he explained, noting its location in the heart of Little Armenia. “The culture of the hospital is very much Armenian, as many of its patients, physicians, staff and employees are Armenia’s.”

“I’m very thankful for the Hospital’s newly established alliance with the AYF and impressed with its leadership. I look forward to working with their 400 or so volunteers in sponsoring the Little Armenia Beautification Project on March 29,” Yoo said. “This is a group of motivated youth with their finger on the pulse of the Armenian community and together we look to make a positive impact on Little Armenia.”

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