GLENDALE–The Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Western USA and its supporters came together last Sunday–March 25 to mark the 91st anniversary of the ARS. The commemoration was held at Wilson Junior High School’s auditorium in Glendale.
The keynote speaker of the event was ARF Bureau member Garo Armenian. In attendance were Prelate Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian and Glendale Pastor Ardag Demirjian–Armenian Consul general Valeri Mkrtoumian–Vice President of ARS Central Executive Houry Der Simonian and member Rosine Saghdjian–and other ARS members and friends.
Opening remarks were made by Master of Ceremonies Seta Tarpinian. A moment of silence was observed in memory of the late Hratch Dasnabedian–who passed away on March 16.
Speakers included ARS Regional Executive President Maro Chalian Read–Vahe Bozoyan of the Central Committee of ARF Western USA–ARS Central Executive Vice President Houry Der Simonian–Armenian Consul General Valeri Mkrtoumian–and closing remarks were made by Bishop Mardirossian.
The role of the ARS in the Diaspora–Armenia–Artsakh–and more recently in Javakhk was stressed by all the speakers. Also emphasized was the need to secure a harmonious and coordinated environment–and the development of expertise within the organization.
Keynote speaker Garo Armenian spoke of the ARS’s past activities–since its founding in 1910. He mentioned how the ARS–as an affiliate of the ARF–has always devoted itself to meeting the needs of the Armenian people. He characterized the ARS as an institution that symbolizes the pride–perseverance–and integrity possessed by the Armenian people.
Garo Armenian explained the various factors which led to the ARS’s creation–beginning with the massacres of Armenia’s in Cilicia in 1909. The ARS was founded in the US–as the United Armenian Red Cross–due to the efforts of Emmanuel Agnouni (Khachadour Maloumian). He described Agnouni’s role within the ARS–and his belief in returning to the homeland. Agnouni’s dream of going back to his homeland cost him his life during the Genocide. Armenian also spoke of the ARS’s first Convention on May 30–1915–during the Genocide–when Armenia’s in the US were still unaware of what was transpiring in their homeland. By that time–the ARS had already registered 33 chapters across the US and Canada.
In his conclusion–Garo Armenian touched upon the critical phase the ARS finds itself in today–and the decisive role it must play in both Armenia and the Diaspora. It must deal with the reorganization of the vast Armenian communities that have formed in former Soviet republics and Eastern European countries. It must also deal with the current communities which have grown due to the recent exodus from Armenia. In order to carry out such goals–new financial sources and manpower is needed so that its structures can be modernized.
ARS Regional Executive President Maro Chalian Read–in her remarks–addressed the activities of the ARS in California over the past 20 years–since it has been the major point of destination for so many Armenia’s. She spoke of the efforts of the ARS in Armenia and Artsakh over the past 12 years–and the current plan to provide economic assistance to the Armenia’s of Javakhk.
She mentioned the existence of 22 ARS chapters today throughout the Western Region–with 15 Saturday schools–and close to 1400 ARS members. The need for new volunteers from the new generation was also stressed.
Vahe Bozoyan of the Central Committee of ARF Western USA highlighted the ARS’s activities as a non-governmental organization and its membership in the Department of Public Information of the United Nations Non-Governmental Organizations. He also spoke of the ARS’s reconstruction efforts in Armenia’s "earthquake disaster zone," its establishment of psychiatric clinics in Gyumri–and social services centers in Los Angeles.
A cultural program featuring Hamazkayin’s "Koussan" Choir conducted by Prof. Ara Manash and pianist Levon Aprahamian–vocal presentations by composer Aram Aghababian–and the "Nayiri" Dance Ensemble choreographed by Vartan and Siranoush Kevorkian was also part of the festivities. A flag ceremony was carried out by Homenetmen’scouts and the anthems were performed by Hovig Krikorian and pianist Antranik Mouradian.