Almost a year ago, when 2020 rolled in as the first year of the new decade, the Armenian Relief Society (ARS) of Eastern USA was excited to celebrate its 110th anniversary with the community. However, 2020 was struck by the hardship and loss our community and homeland faced and continue to endure. We all felt the far-reaching impact of COVID-19. We tried to understand the agony that our compatriots in Lebanon felt after the Beirut Port explosion, and with a war at the doorstep of our homeland, we were reminded of the existential threat facing our nation. It was a year unlike any other to say the least. However, the ARS was quick to mobilize the community into action. Our chapters, members and community-at-large responded to our calls, and we were able to provide urgent support for those who needed us the most. As I reflect on the previous year, here are some of the things the ARS of Eastern USA has been able to do, thanks to its army of volunteers and supporters.
Responding to COVID-19
When the novel coronavirus crisis began to impact our communities, the ARS of Eastern USA chapters began to deliver groceries to community members’ homes, hospitals, and sent baskets to Armenian healthcare professionals for their ongoing heroic work during the pandemic. Some ARS members also started sewing cloth face masks and donating them to community members. The ARS of Eastern USA donated 114,000 meals to vulnerable community neighbors through Feeding America and raised $8,710 for the Global Emergency Response Fund to support those in need during this time of hardship to help with vital necessities to sustain the well-being of our compatriots.
Lebanon Emergency Appeal Support
The ARS of Eastern USA delivered transformational change for the people of Lebanon through the Armenian Relief Cross of Lebanon (ARS Lebanon) by donating $150,000. Earlier in the year, as the ongoing political, economic, and regional crises continued to affect the Armenian community of Lebanon, the donations helped provide meals, groceries, medication and other basic necessities to community members. After the explosion in the Port of Beirut, the ARS of Eastern USA collected donations to provide much-needed care to those who suffered from injuries and provided infant formula, hygiene products and household items, as well as continuing necessary programs.
Humanitarian Aid to Artsakh
In light of the aggression against Artsakh, the ARS of Eastern USA provided a $165,000 donation that was directed towards supporting 100 families from Artsakh for four consecutive months ($250 per month), sponsoring 1,500 Christmas gifts to children from Artsakh, and for any other immediate assistance that our compatriots needed.
During the year, we were able to still continue with our flagship programs. In the first couple of months before the lockdown went into effect, more than 100 college-aged Armenians attended the ARS of Eastern USA’s Youth Connect Program in March at Columbia University, where expert panelists headlined the program. The ARS of Eastern USA also awarded $44,000 in scholarships to undergraduate and graduate students and selected 18 students as the winners of the 2020 ARS Essay Contest.
We worked to keep the community informed through our newly revamped website, our social media channels and newsletters. Even though our original plans of celebrating our anniversary did not become a reality, our members and chapters showcased the true testament of our humanitarian mission with action. Our community’s belief in our mission helped us bring meaningful change and extend our healing hands to deliver the lifesaving humanitarian aid that our compatriots needed. This only proves that the organization that Edgar Agnouni founded in 1910 in New York continues to justify its humanitarian vocation today as it did yesterday.
We have always counted on individuals to support our work and our vision. Our supporters have truly been at the heart of our work, propelling our mission forward every step of the way. So, thank you for your words of encouragement and generous donations. We are grateful to all of you because none of this would have been possible without you.
While this will continue to be a difficult year for us all, it is through our collective action and goodwill that perseverance will be possible. It is my hope that you will once again support our work as we continue to respond to humanitarian crises around the world and implement projects in our communities. Your commitment to our cause will propel us forward even in the face of unprecedented challenges. I am hopeful that together we will be able to strengthen our communities and homeland.
ARS of Eastern USA Chairwoman Ani Attar is a founding and a 42-year member of the ARS “Tzolig” Chapter of Detroit. During her membership, Attar has served on her chapter’s executive board as treasurer and chairperson. She has also served six terms on the Regional Executive Board, where she was elected as treasurer and chaired the board for more than two terms. She has represented the ARS Eastern Region during two ARS International Conventions as a delegate. She has an accounting degree from the University of Michigan. Attar and her husband are proud parents of two.