Armenian society hosts USC event

The Armenian Relief Society of Western USA, along with the USC Institute of Armenian Studies, hosted a symposium at USC’s Town and Gown Saturday to speak about the importance of philanthropy as part of the celebration of its centennial anniversary.

The event, titled “Building Blocks for the Future,” involved a series of lectures and discussions on topics ranging from philanthropy to the empowerment of women.

Among the speakers was Paul Schulz, the chief executive officer of the American Red Cross of Greater Los Angeles.

“I want to thank the society so much for partnering with us,” Schulz said as he discussed the relationship between the ARS and the Red Cross. “The ARS is very influential, particularly in parts of Los Angeles, so it’s really important that we work with them in areas like Glendale, and other areas where the Armenian community is so vibrant.”

One of the main messages all speakers stressed was the importance of volunteering and helping others.

“Get involved and volunteer. Whether it’s the Armenian Relief Society or the Red Cross, make sure you’re doing something to give back,” Schulz said.

The ARS is involved in international and local philanthropic projects, as well as cultural education and community outreach. In cooperation with the Red Cross, the ARS sponsors blood drives and contributes financially in times of international disaster.

“We believe in helping Armenians and the communities they live in at large,” said Nyree Derderian, the vice-chair of the ARS Regional Executive Board of Western USA.

The symposium was moderated by Richard Dekmejian, the director of the USC Institute of Armenian Studies and a professor of political science.

“The ARS asked the institute to evaluate their activities in education, in fundraising, in philanthropy, in taking care of the poor and in governance,” Dekmejian said. “It’s an open discussion on the organization and how it could better its world philanthropy in the next 100 years. So it’s looking back at the past and planning for the future.

The full-day event involved a series of seven presentations on cultural preservation, education, philanthropy, ARS governance, ARS involvement with the United Nations, the history of the ARS and the empowerment of women.

Other speakers included Judge Houry Sanderson from the Fresno County Superior Court, and Harut Sassounian, publisher of The California Courier, an English-language Armenian newspaper.

Robert Babaian, a community member who was in attendance, said he wished more students were there so they could hear about Armenian culture and philanthropy.

“There was a lot of vital information. [It was] very energetic and very helpful for the foundation of the blocks that we are trying to build,” Babaian said.