“My daughter donated a $100 today,” Melineh Issakhanian proudly exclaimed Thursday at a Chamlian Armenian School fundraiser for the ANCA Endowment fund telethon.
“Aundrae’s too modest to say she donated to the telethon before coming here,” she added. “I’m really proud of her.”
Melineh’s and her daughter, Aundrae, were one of many families that turned out at the Crescenta Valley Baja Fresh Mexican food restaurant Thursday to support Chamlian’s effort to raise funds for the upcoming telethon set for May 31. Baja Fresh had pledged to donate 20 percent of every purchase to Chamlian, which in turn is going to donate the proceeds to the ANCA Endowment Fund. The fundrasier lasted from 3 to 9pm and enjoyed a steady flow of participants throughout the evening.
“I think it’s important for Armenian-Americans, regardless of how old they are, to contribute to this cause,” Aundrae, 13, said. “I want our community in America to be strong and for that to happen we need to unite behind the institutions that help our community grow.”
Aundrae first learned about the ANCA Endowment Fund through Chamlian, where volunteers have been coming on campus to talk to the students about the Endowment Fund and the critical role youth play in the community’s future success.
There are a myriad of reasons to donate to the ANCA Endowment Fund. “The community has much to do and is up against many challenges,” explained Shooshig Avakian- Koroghlyan, the Telethon’s Administrative Director.
For the last few months, ANCA Endowment Fund volunteers have been visiting Armenian schools and churches to bring the message of the telethon to Armenian-American communities throughout the country.
At schools here in California, volunteers have been traveling from school to school giving presentations to students ranging from 3rd to 12th grade. “We’ve been trying to raise awareness among our youth of the growing efforts of the Endowment Fund to increase Armenian-American participation in civic life through internship programs, support of the ANCA Capital Gateway program and local media and government outreach,” said Avakian-Koroghlyan.
“The goal of our presentations has been to empower the students and get them to realize that they are the true strength of this community,” Avakian-Koroghlyan said.
Indeed, the school feels the same. “It is important to reach out to and engage our grassroots when they are students,” said Seda Batamian, Chamlian’s Dean of Students. “By instilling an appreciation for civic engagement and community involvement in them during childhood, ensures that it will become second nature for them when they grow up to become adults.”
Students have taken up the challenge, organizing classroom events and fundraising competitions to help ensure a bright future for their community. Chamlian, for example, has been organizing fundraiser after fundraiser in support of the telethon.
“We are having two bake sales, one sponsored by the teachers and staff of Chamlian and the other sponsored by Sarkis Pastry, said Batamian. “Money is being collected from the students and faculty/staff. Chamlian’s Parent Support Committee and the Dad’s Support Committee is also contributing to this worthy cause.”
In addition, each class at the school has set their own fundraising goals and is working to raise funds in a competition to see which class can raise the most. “The class that brings in the most money will get free dress and pizza; while second place winners will get free dress,” she added.
“Surprisingly, they have a keen understanding of the threats and challenges we face in Washington DC. Throughout all the schools, the consensus was that the students would do everything they could to match the financial strength of the Turkish lobby even if that meant going door to door, raising money and informing others of the cause.”
For 14 year old Chamlian student Christopher Keshishian, it’s his generation that’s going to defang the Turkish lobby, which spends millions of dollars monthly to deter the recognition of the Armenian Genocide in the United States.
“By donating to the telethon I am helping my community have the ammunition it needs to combat the Turkish government’s multi-million dollar lobbyists who work against the recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the interests of the Armenian Republic,” he said. “Obama broke his promise and to the community and is cutting aid to Armenia. We need to double our efforts by being strong, united, and even more involved in politics so that this doesn’t happen again.”
For parent Razmik Arakelian, there is no better place to gather support for this cause than the school. “We are raising money to secure the foundations of our community, the school is an integral part of that community and it’s the best place to rally our community for the Endowment Fund’s telethon,” Arakelian exclaimed.
Another parent, Zareh Movsesian, agreed. “By raising money for the telethon, we are inherently supporting Chamlian,” he said. “These kids, here today, are seeing firsthand how their involvement in the school and in the community can make a lasting impact. They are going to be the torch bearers of our future and the support base our community needs to maintain its institutions.”
Anoush Kazarians, 19, is proof of Movsesian’s sentiments. A Chamlian alumnus, Kazarian said Chamlian built her bonds to the community. “If it were not for this school, I would not have known about this telethon, the ANCA Endowment Fund, or anything else going on in my community,” she explained. “Even after all these years, Chamlian still keeps me informed about my community.”
Nine year old twin sisters, Tania and Aline Buickians, although still young, have already begun to realize the importance of being involved in the community. This year, they participated in Chamlian’s annual Walk for Remembrance on April 24. For seven hours, these two sisters, with their mom, walked with dozens of their schoolmates from Lowell at the far edge of La Crescenta to City Hall, in the heart of Glendale.
“We came here because the proceeds are going to go to Chamlian and Chamlian is going to give it to the telethon, which is going to help the community,” the two sisters said, almost synchronously.
In the weeks leading up to the telethon, the community is active building momentum for what looks to be a successful telethon. The Crescenta Valley AYF will be selling coffee at the Armenian Independence Day Festival Sunday May 24 in Little Armenia to raising money for the telethon and will also be organizing a car wash fundraiser on May 30 at the Foothill 76 Gas Station at 3402 Foothill Blvd, on the corner of New York and Foothill. Meanwhile, the ARS Askhken Pilavjian preschool and Ferrahian are both holding raffle drawings for the telethon. Community businesses like Tailor Town (Glendale Galleria or Westfield Santa Anita) are also pledging to donate 30% of all sales toward the telethon.