Los Angeles, CA – On Thursday September 16, donors, supporters and friends of the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) gathered at the Cicada Restaurant in Downtown Los Angeles for the ANCA-WR’s traditional Banquet Kickoff Party and to hear this year’s list of honorees. The Banquet Kickoff Party has become an annual tradition and a prelude to the organization’s gala event – the Annual Banquet, which will take place on October 24, 2004 at the Ritz-Carlton Huntington Hotel in Pasadena, California. ANCA-WR Chairman Raffi Hamparian announced that this year’s recipient of the organization’s most prestigious award, the ANCA-WR Freedom Award is the Near East Foundation.
The Near East Foundation was the first nationwide, large scale, international assistance organization in the United States, founded in 1915 to rescue desperate and dying refugees of the Armenian Genocide. The private American philanthropic organization was founded in New York City under the name of the Near East Relief. It was created in response to Ambassador Henry Morgenthau’s urgent cable to the U.S. Secretary of State on September 3 stating that the “destruction of the Armenian race in Turkey is progressing rapidly” and urging that a committee be formed “to raise funds and provide means to save some of the Armenians.” Within two weeks a group of civic, business, and religious leaders had formed such a committee. What NEF did at the turn of the century and how it was done affected the shape of Truman’s post-World War II recovery programs, the United Nations Development Program and the Kennedy administration’s founding of USAID.
“The Near East Relief gave again and again to the Armenian people, demonstrating unparalleled humanity and great sacrifice to save those suffering. Generations of Armenians are alive today because of the hard work that the Near East Foundation did to rescue orphans and survivors,” stated Chairman Raffi Hamparian.
“The Near East Foundation is humbled and greatly honored by the recognition of the Armenian National Committee of America’s Western Region with its Freedom Award. There is no more meaningful acknowledgment than that which comes from those to whom we are most closely connected historically,” said NEF President Dr. Ryan LaHurd upon receiving news of the award.
In addition to the Near East Foundation, the recipients of the Man of the Year and the Legacy Awards were announced as well. One of the state’s highest ranking Armenian-American State legislators, Senator Charles Poochigian (R-Fresno) has been chosen to receive the honor of Man of the Year. During his tenure in the State Senate, Senator Poochigian has led the way on numerous pieces of legislation that directly affect Armenian Americans living in the State of California. Recently, Governor Schwarzenegger signed into law a bill authored by Senator Poochigian, Senate Bill 1689, which will exempt Armenian Genocide life insurance settlements from state taxation related to income.
The ANCA-WR has also announced this year’s Legacy Award recipient, Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA). Congresswoman Anna Eshoo has been a leading advocate and supporter of the organization’s newly launched ANCA Capital Gateway Program which mentors young Armenians who want to work in government. The program provides recent college graduates with housing and job bank resources to help place individuals in positions on Capitol Hill and other government bodies in the nation’s capitol.
“Everyone is excited about this year’s banquet and all the honorees. Our committee has worked very hard to make this a fantastic event worthy of the ANCA name.” commented Banquet Committee Chairwoman Aida Dimejian. “We are honoring two great Armenian-American public officials and have another rising star, Councilman Frank Zerunyan, serving as the Master of Ceremonies.”
Banquet annually draws over 750 individuals, including a long list of dignitaries. The event is attended by prominent Members of Congress, State Legislators, and a vast number of Armenian American political activists. The ANCA-WR Annual Banquet is the largest event of its kind that brings Armenian Americans together with a large number of federal, state and local public officials.
For more information on this year’s Annual Banquet, or to reserve a table, call the ANCA-WR offices at (818) 500 – 1918.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.