GLENDALE— More than $600,000 was raised during the ARS Gala 2023 held on March 12 at Taglyan Compex in Los Angeles, marking the 40th Anniversary of the establishment of the Armenian Relief Society of Western USA. In a show of support for the many local and international needs that the ARS is spearheading throughout Artsakh, Armenia, Javakhk, Lebanon, and earthquake-ravaged Syria, 550 guests were in attendance, including elected officials, community leaders, representatives of sister and local organizations, ARS members, and generous supporters.
The program began with Mistress of Ceremonies Tatevik Ekezian and Vruir Tadevosian inviting tenor Raffi Kerbabian to sing the America, Armenian and ARS anthems, which was followed by the invocation by Western Prelate Bishop Torkom Donoyan. The Prelate blessed the ARS leadership and chapters, as well as the benefactors, for upholding the unique character and mission of the ARS with unparalleled local and international service delivery to Armenia, Artsakh, Javakhk and the Diaspora.
The program continued with the observance of a moment of silence for the fallen heroes who defended the homeland and the victims of the earthquake in Syria.
Other guests included, Archbishop Barkev Martirosyan (former Prelate of Artsakh), Very Rev. Armenag Bedrossian representing Bishop Mikael Mouradian of the Armenian Catholic Church; ARS Central Executive Board Chairperson Dr. Nyree Derderian and board members Maral Matossian and Arousyak Melkonian; Central Executive Council member of the Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia Rostom Aintablian; Western Prelacy Executive Council member Dzovig Zetlian.
Elected officials, who attended the gala, included California State Senator Anthony Portantino; California State Assemblymember Laura Friedman; Anna Mouradian, Chief Deputy of the Office of Los Angeles County Supervisor Kathryn Barger; City of Glendale Mayor Ardy Kassakhian and Councilmember Elen Asatryan; City of Burbank Councilmember Zizette Mullins; and Mary Hovaguimian, representative of the Office of Congressman Adam Schiff.
ARS of Western USA Regional Executive Chairperson, Vicky Marashlian, delivered the board’s message, thanking supporters and dedicated volunteers for enabling the ARS to meet the challenges of individuals and communities in need in Armenia, Artsakh, and Diasporan communities worldwide, including Lebanon and Syria — a sad reminder to the similar circumstances that the ARS encountered when it was founded over a century ago.
She extended appreciation to Mr. & Mrs. Jack and Zarig Youredjian, who have become the Banquet Sponsors for two consecutive years. She also thanked the Yemenidjian and Koujakian families, as well as the ARS Las Vegas Shoushi Chapter Verjine Koujakian Saturday School, for their grand contribution in memory of their beloved mother and school’s founder Ungh. Verjine Koujakian. Marashlian stated that “your mother’s legacy remains in our hearts and will make a monumental impact on the lives of so many in our young and future generation. The support we collectively provide inspires hope for a better tomorrow for generations to come. We will continue to advance our mission in serving the educational, humanitarian, cultural, health and welfare needs for the betterment of our society while standing true to our motto: With the People, for the People.”
Marashlian acknowledge the efforts of the event organizing committee, headed by Annie Kechichian, as well as the assistance from the ARS regional office General Manager, Jasik Jarahian, and Director of Operations of the ARS Social Services, Talar Aintablian.
The candle lighting ceremony was a chance to remember those who came before and to reaffirm our commitment to continue their legacy. A video presentation about the history and present programs of the ARS of Western USA, as well as one dedicated to the memory of Ungerouhi Verjine Koujakian were shown.
Gala banquet sponsors Mr. & Mrs. Jack and Zarig Youredjian were honored with a plaque presented by Vicky Marashlian for their continued support. This year, the couple donated $50,000 to the ARS. Mr. Youredjian, whose wife is a member of the “Gars” chapter, upon receiving the plaque, thanked all the ARS chapters for the amazing work that they do for the community.
Gala benefactors, the Yemenidjian and Koujakian families, donated $250,000 in memory of Verjine Koujakian, who was an ARS member and a steadfast supporter of Armenian education. During the event, a surprise announcement was made that Alex and Arda Yemenidjian’s son, Mr. & Mrs. Armen and Anoush Yemenidjian, made a $25,000 donation in their grandmother’s memory.
Marashlian handed a plaque in memory of Ungerouhi Verjine Koujakian to Arda Yemenidjian, who passed it on to the ARS Las Vegas “Shoushi” Chapter Executive Chairperson Siroun Bedirian. Bedirian expressed her appreciation to the Regional Executive and the Koujakian family, her fellow-members’ delight that the seeds of education that Ungh. Verjine Koujakian planted 30 years ago in the desert of Las Vegas continues to yield new generations, who ensure that the Armenian language and culture prosper.
On behalf of the Koujakian and Yemenidjian families, Arda Yemenidjian expressed her gratitude to the ARS for the beautiful tribute honoring their mother’s legacy. She recalled that her mother “was ahead of her time, always educating herself, and always making sure we prepare and educate the next generation. ARS was very close to her heart. With her devotion to the ARS cause, our mother stood on the shoulders of thousands of ARS volunteers around the world…Those volunteers are our real heroes of this humanitarian triumph that is the ARS and we are very proud of our mother for having played a small role in the selfless charitable mission of the ARS.”
Marashlian then made an announcement that a second anonymous donation of $25,000 was made, raising the total amount of donations to $600,000.
The entertainment program continued with performers such as 9-year-old Darren Chilingirian, Andre and Ani Ohanyan, Sofi Mkheyan, Aida Sargsyan, and Gevorg Sirekanyan.
As the program ended, guests who had participated in the silent auction with many donated items picked up their winnings.
The Armenian Relief Society of Western USA, split from the ARS of North America to become a separate region in 1984 and with regional headquarters in Glendale, Calif., has 23 chapters with 1,100 members in four western states. The ARS operates a Social Services Division and Child, Youth, and Family Guidance Center, 15 one-day schools, a day-care, and funds numerous youth programs, scholarships, and relief efforts.