The Economy is Cyclical; The Armenian Cause is Not

 

Donors sustained philanthropy with a mix of giving, volunteer time and in kind services.

 

Patil

Pattyl Aposhian-Kasparianworked on the Endowment Fund Telethon Committee. Photo by Nora Yacoubian.

 

The experience of volunteering for the ANCA Endowment Fund Telethon in Little Armenia, CA was surreal.  If you can imagine a television studio filled with pure passion and energy with no room to even take a deep breath, it would be close.

One might think that after years and years of telethon efforts—from Jerry Lewis’ MDA Telethon to the Armenia Fund, the process might become mundane or almost calculated. On the contrary, as a supporter of both mentioned telethons and the ANCA Endowment Fund Telethon, I believe that each year is more intense than the prior.

For me, the ANCA Endowment Fund Telethon is about education, motivation and hope. It gives me information to take action on issues affecting Armenian Americans. It gives me the confidence to voice my concerns.    It empowers me to know that my voice – each of our voices – makes the difference.

In 1999, I was an ANCA Leo Sarkisian Program intern in Washington, D.C.  Looking back, I was so young and inexperienced—thirsty for knowledge and a fighting chance to make a difference.  In those ten years, I’ve made a difference.  As a member of the ANCA Endowment Fund Telethon committee, I committed the same passion and energy with additional knowledge and certainty.

December, 2008.  We started our work with a lean, core committee. I was responsible for marketing and development efforts. The objective was clear.  The means and resources were left to us.  The first action item on my list was to publish and advertise the date of our Telethon.  Of all the work, I was most nervous about the first publication of the date.  With the current economy on everyone’s mind, I kept thinking—how can we have a Telethon in the middle of a recession? How are we going to pull this off? I sent an email with a Save the Date attachment to our team. Folks must have sensed my nervousness in the written text.  Dr. Viken Hovsepian responded with one line. That line served as the backbone I needed to move forward. He wrote, “The economy is cyclical.  The Armenian Cause is NOT!”

The months flew by.  With direct postcards, newspaper ads, news segments, letter campaigns, public service announcements, radio spots and a deluge of articles, the community mobilized.  Efforts were underway.  Schools eagerly brainstormed about how to contribute to the telethon.  As a parent of Tavlian Pre School in Pasadena, I became witness to the dedication of the school administration and parents to organize a lunch to raise money for the Telethon.  Banners hung. Emails blasted. Letters stuffed in student’s mailboxes—each message urging everyone’s participation to the Cause.  

As Genocide Commemoration activities past, all energy, coast to coast was on the ANCA Endowment Fund Telethon.  Meetings, conference calls, corporate sponsorship packages, reception parties, presentations and Internet messages emerged everywhere.  The community was not only mobilized, but energized.

An hour did not pass where my Blackberry buzzed with a Telethon-related email.  A day did not lapse without a phone call requesting additional brochures and pledge cards. Not one organization said no to our requests for resources and volunteers.  We became a truly unified machine.

As marketing and development efforts were in place, so was the production.  More than 20 video segments were taped on both coasts and edited to provide viewers with current and enlightening information.  A team of professionals led by Ara Soudjian with legal mind Antranig Kzirian worked past 2 am for weeks to ensure that all segments clearly featured the passion, energy and spirit of the ANCA Endowment Fund.

As the weeks turned into days, phone banking and training took place.  The Horizon studios and our office became second homes to our volunteers.  It became the control center for all Telethon-related activities.  At one point, there was no room to walk, sit or stand in the director’s office.

May 31, 2009. As I entered the double parked lot, I felt good. It’s such a simple word to use, but it’s the right word.  I thought about how our organization can compete with so many other organizations and 21st century entertainment opportunities and rise above. I felt good to know WHY Generation X floods our volunteer spots and projects the spirit of Hai Tahd.  

It’s good to feel good.  

Seeing the transformed Horizon studios and the volunteer activity made me feel like a million bucks.

The Telethon set glistened as the ANCA Endowment Fund logo took center stage.  The control room was buzzing with activity. The hosts looked fantastic. The rest of us did not.  Looking at the dark circles under the eye’s of the production crew and seeing zombie-like expressions on the committee member’s faces served as a reality check. We were minutes away from the start of our program. I thought to myself… this Telethon MUST be a success. This Telethon WILL be a success.

At 3:00 p.m., our logo flooded television screens all over the nation and in many parts of the world. Minutes later, the phones started ringing. Guests started to appear to fill in their time slots and watch the tally board numbers rise. I think it was at the four hour mark when we reached $1 million.

I took a couple of minutes to reflect.  I stood a little taller, prouder, and more confident.  As I looked at the donor scroll and listened to the announcements, I saw the names of our own volunteers. I saw the names of our committee members, hosts, and organization leaders. Our donors sustained philanthropy with a mix of giving, volunteer time and in kind services. Amazing.  

Nora Yacoubian donated thousands of dollars with her husband Vahe Yacoubian, yet volunteered her time and talent to capture each and every still moment of the Telethon.  She did not leave the studio until every photo was downloaded and color corrected.  That’s the passion behind the ANCA Endowment Fund.

Ara Soudjian and his crew worked tirelessly to produce the very best segments featured at the Telethon.  After downloading 20 segments in to “the can” the morning of the 31st, he went home for a quick shower.  An hour later, he was back to volunteer his time and skills to record a “Behind the Scenes” segment.  That’s the talent behind the ANCA Endowment Fund.

Team member, Dr. Viken Hovsepian, greeted every single donor and volunteer and treated them with the same gratitude and respect he showed long-time philanthropists.  He didn’t need a list of dollar amounts to exercise his appreciation. Under so much pressure, I witnessed him kindly give up his seat to allow for an elderly donor to take his place. That’s the pride behind the ANCA Endowment Fund.

Leonard Manoukian, the Executive Director of the Telethon left his final production work minutes before 11 p.m. to walk me to my car—to ensure that I was safety on my way home.  That’s the people behind the ANCA Endowment Fund.

Passion. Talent. Pride. People. 

We all believe in a just cause.  We all feel that we do our part for the betterment of the community.  However, being a part of the ANCA Endowment Fund Telethon holds a special place for me and my family.  As a past intern, donor, volunteer and advocate, this Telethon served as a reminder—to stay positive, true and involved because Hai Tad needs people like me and you.

One Nation. One Future. One Cause.

 

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