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Armenian General Benevolent Union Celebrates Founders Day

Local Armenian Americans honor the 116th anniversary of the Armenian General Benevolent Union

Published on Tuesday, May 24, 2022 | 6:24 am

Armenian Americans from across Southern California gathered at the AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Performing Arts Center in Pasadena on Sunday to commemorate “Founder’s Day” and 116 years of the Armenian General Benevolent Union’s (AGBU) service to the Armenian community. 

The afternoon presentation, which was hosted by Carin Touloumdjian and Tenny Khatchatourian, of the AGBU Young Professionals of Los Angeles,  featured performances by the AGBU Los Angeles Choir and local scholarship recipients, along with a ribbon cutting ceremony to launch the Innovation Studios Atrium where a Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) curriculum, infusing Armenian cultural themes, will be taught. 

The AGBU was founded on April 15, 1906 in Cairo, Egypt, by Boghos Nubar and other prominent representatives of the Egyptian-Armenian community. Today it is the world’s largest non-profit organization devoted to upholding the Armenian heritage through educational, cultural and humanitarian programs. 

The AGBU has played a significant role in preserving Armenian traditions and values by adapting to the needs of the worldwide community and the demands of the times.

As ABGU Central Board Member Yervant Demirjian pointed out in his address, the original mission of AGBU was to support and preserve the nomadic culture of Armenia through benevolent acts. 

On Sunday, however, he said, “Today, our ‘Mission 2.0’ has changed from preservation to promotion. Our fullest mission is to make sure that the new generation of Armenians are equipped to tackle the challenges of the 21st Century, in their adopted homelands and at the same time make us proud. 

He added, “Our benevolence has shifted from just ‘kinder and gentler’ to ‘kinder, gentler, feasible and more dynamic. We look forward to the continuing partition of our organization and making the organization a part of your life.”

Following Demirjian and Talin Yacoubian, Western Region community affairs representative, participants heard performances from Alexandra and Lilia Yaralian on the kanun; scholarship recipients Arin Sarkissian on flute, Anoush Pogossian, accompanied by Barry Tan on piano.  

The AGBU Manoogian-Demirdjian School presented the 9th Grade dance group performing “Artashat,” a  recitation of a poem by Vahagn Davtyan, by Liana Fanarjian, and  “Yerevan Erebuni,” sung by Karin Orunchakjiel.

Introducing the new Innovation Studio, Educational Programs Manager Nare Avagyan, said, “Since the youth of today are entering a world of the unknown, we must equip them to walk away with a sense of agency that they will be able to develop the skills and the mindset to take on any challenge that comes their way.” 

Avagyan also pointed out that the program will also co-exist with a program in New York and eventually, one in Boston. 

“Our goal is allowing youth in different cities to connect and work together on a project. All of this will allow them to complete the dual goals of cutting-edge programs that will enhance their skills and change their mindsets, as well as connect them to each other, and have them be part of the global Armenian reality.”

From there, the group reassembled in the quad outside the new Innovation Studio for a ribbon cutting with AGBU representatives, after State Senator Anthony Portantino presented AGBU representatives with a proclamation from the State Legislature honoring the group’s 116 years of existence and community service. 

Portantino was also saluted at the event for helping to secure $10 million for the construction of the new Armenian Museum set to open in Glendale in 2025. 

Said Portantino, “AGBU is 1116 years old and is the largest benevolence organization for the Armenian community, and it has a great presence in my district, in Glendale and Pasadena, with its philanthropic and scholarship work, it’s all very important not only for the Armenian community, but also for California.”

Portantino credited Governor Newsom’s foresight five years ago, explaining that Newsom sent a team to review the facility, “and we were able to get the first $10 million, and this year, with the help of healthy budget reserves, the governor saw the merit in making this happen, and I’m just happy to be a facilitator and conduit between his office and the Armenian community.”

Since its inception in 1906, AGBU has grown to include 74 districts, chapters and partner groups; 28 Young Professionals groups; and 24 day and Saturday schools; along with dozens of camps, scout groups and athletics programs.

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