GYUMRI, Armenia—After decades of waiting and living in makeshift homes, 11 families, mainly elderly residents of Armenia’s second largest city who endured the 1988 earthquake, received apartments, courtesy of Los Angeles-based benefactors Sarkis and Nune Sepetjian and their family, through whose generosity these homes became a reality.
During a special ceremony on Tuesday, the Sepetjians, along with Gyumri Mayor Samvel Balasanyan and governor of the Shirak Province, Artur Khachatryan handed keys to the 11 families, the names of whom were drawn in a special lottery coordinated by the municipality and the Armenian Relief and Development Association (ARDA), which undertook the construction project. The city of municipality contributed 15 percent of the costs of the construction.
Residents of Gyumri gathered at a special ceremony, which included the traditional blessing of the building housing the apartments. After the residents were handed the keys to their new homes, a ribbon cutting was held to allow the families to go to their new homes. The apartments are partially furnished and are heated.
“I am grateful that you gave me this opportunity to help the deserving elderly or the needy,” said Sarkis Sepetjian, whose wife, Nune, is originally from Gyumri. “For me it is a duty to help those in need.”
According to Azatutyun.am, he pledged that he will continue to advance the housing issue in Gyumri and promised to engage his friends to join him in building “however many homes are needed in this city.”
In his remarks, Sepetjian reflected on his own childhood.
“I wasn’t born rich,” said Sepetjian, explaining that his father was a refugee. “I am the son of poor people and I know what it means to be in need.”
The Sepetjian family’s generosity is known to the Los Angeles Armenian community. This past March, Mr. and Mrs. Sepetjian and their family were the sponsors of the annual Armenian Cultural Foundation Gala Banquet. They have also been-staunch supporters of the Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region, the Prelacy Schools, and the Prelacy itself. In January, the Sepetjians sponsored the Prelacy’s annual New Year and Christmas celebration hosted by Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian.
Balasanyan, the mayor of Gyumri, said that most of the people living in the makeshift homes that are metal containers turned into huts, are elderly who require care. That is why, the apartment complex will offer social services, in addition to roofs over their heads.
He added that it was a very difficult process to choose the recipients of the homes and expressed hope that in the future other families will have the opportunity to have their own homes.
“I hope that very soon we can provide housing to everyone,” said Khachatryan, the Shirak governor , adding, “and once and for all close this chapter of our city and province.”