GLENDALE–Hundreds of community leaders and members gathered at the site of the Armenian Relief Society center–on Glenoaks Boulevard–for a groundblessing ceremony Sunday–to officially pave the way for the construction of the new ARS regional headquarters.
The groundblessing was officiated by Western Prelate Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian–who was accompanied by Rev. Nareg Pehlivanian. Also present were Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western US Central Committee chairman Hovig Saliba–and CC members John Kossakian and Avetis Ispendjian–as well as representatives of myriad community organizations and ARS members.
Among the government officials attending the ceremony were Robert Pasch of the LA County Sheriff’s department; Gregory Krikorian representing Congressman James Rogan (R-Calif.)–Mannik Khatchatrian representing State Senator Adam Schiff; Sunday Sarkissian representing State Assemblyman Scott Wildman; President of the Glendale Chamber of Commerce Berdj Karapetian; and representatives of the Glendale Adventist Hospital.
The patrons of the groundblessing ceremony were Peter and Seta Koushdilian–the son and daughter-in-law of Shnorhik Koushdilian who passed away last year following a contribution of $50,000 toward the center fund. Other patrons were Garbis and Mayda Bezjian who donated $10,000 and Richard and Sherry Manougian who also donated $10,000. This donation was presented at the ceremony by Sherry’s parents Berge and Terry Minassian.
The ARS Center project went ahead through a generous contribution by the Lincy Foundation of $300,000 which was utilized to purchase the plot adjacent to the then existing ARS Nazikian Home–allowing the construction of a new expanded center.
In addition to the Lincy grant–late Fresno benefactor Sarkis Boghosian donated $100–701. In recognition of Boghosian’s support and generosity toward the ARS–it was announced that the main hall of the new center would bear the benefactor’s name.
Local ARS chapters donated a sum of $94,900–while $119,482 was also collected through individuals donations. To date–the ARS Western Region has raised approximately $690,000 for the center.
Following the performance of the American–Armenian and the ARS anthems–Master of Ceremonies–chairman of the St. Mary’s Armenian Church Board of Trustees Stepan Kabadayan welcomed the public to gathering and emphasized the important role the ARS has played in the Armenian reality.
"Today is a special day–because since its inception the ARS has catered to the needs of the Armenian homeland and the Armenian people. We all must strengthen the Diaspora–since through a strong Diaspora we can ensure a strong homeland," said Kabadayan. On behalf of the ARS Western Regional Executive–Christine Arakelian told the gathering that while historic achievemen’s had been witnessed in the current Armenian reality–the had come to focus attention on the strengthening of this region–"in order to further strengthen our newly established–free and independent homeland."
In her remarks–ARS Western Regional chairwoman Helen Keosian said that the community has witnessed the groundblessing for the ARS center which should become a home to all–since the ARS is "a harbor for us all."
The ARS was founded in 1910 by Stepan Agnouni as an affiliate organization to the ARF. Since its establishment–the ARS has served the humanitarian and relief needs of the Armenian nation.
The ARS humanitarian mission was the focal point of remarks made by Vahe Yacoubian–the chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region.
"It is an honor for me to represent the ARF and the ARS–since both organizations serve the Armenian people in order that they live in dignity. For this reason–it is important to be present here and also to provide our assistance in the construction of this center," remarked Yacoubian.
The ARS Regional Executive plans to construct a two-story center. Demolition began last month on the existing Nazikian center–the plot for which will be merged with the adjacent acquisition to make room for the new center.
Regional Executive member Terry Minassian brief the gathering on fundraising activities and stated that the project was scheduled to continue until the complete construction and furnishing of the center.
In her remarks–ARS Central Executive member Rosine Saghdejian announced that on May 28–the ARS became a full member of the UN non-governmental organization–providing the organization with a new avenue to assist the Armenian nation.
On behalf of the ARF Western US Central Committee–Kossakian congratulated the ARS on its efforts to establish a new center. He recounted his experience as the first Executive Secretary of the Western Region ARS–stating that the organization had come a long way in its social service and other humanitarian programs.
"Any congratulatory remarks directed to the ARS can be deemed as an accolade for the ARF–since the two organizations work for one cause," said Kossakian.
Prior to the groundblessing ceremony–Prelate Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian said that the ARS was the "good Samaritan" of the Armenian people. He also praised the ARS for its decades-long service to the Armenian community and congratulated the Western Regional Executive for the center project.
The groundblessing was followed by a special prayer recognizing all past and present ARS members–benefactors and supporters.
A handful of soil from Armenia and Karabakh was incorporated to ground–as patrons and community leaders took turns breaking the ground.
In closing Kabadayan read the names of new donors and acknowledged their generosity.