ATP Tries Cozy Fundraising Style to Plant a Million Trees This Year


From left, Robert Mirak, Jill Mirak Kew, Christina Kew, Carolyn Mugar, Nancy Barsamian and Anthony Barsamian

From left, Robert Mirak, Jill Mirak Kew, Christina Kew, Carolyn Mugar, Nancy Barsamian and Anthony Barsamian

By Alin K. Gregorian
Mirror-Spectator Staff

SHERBORN, Mass. — A gathering of about 200 guests enjoying food and drink while reveling in the late summer sunshine in the backyard of Anthony and Nancy Barsamian raised several hundred thousand dollars for the Armenia Tree Project (ATP) on Sunday, September 20.

The event marked the ATP’s 15th anniversary, one of several regional events planned for the occasion. The goal was to raise funds, and the organizers were not disappointed.

The small celebrations are also intended to recognize those who have supported the organization. Among those who this year are supporting the ATP — as they have done for several years — are the Mirak family as well as the Ohanian family.

The John Mirak Foundation renewed its five-year pledge to the ATP, increasing its donation to $300,000 for the five-year period, compared to $250,000 in the previous span.

In addition, Virginia Ohanian donated $150,000 for the Michael and Virginia Ohanian Center for Environmental Studies in Kapan, Armenia. The Ohanians have donated several hundred thousand dollars to the ATP already.

Executive Director Jeff Masarjian noted several longtime supporters of the organization, including the Mirak, Bilezikian, Talanian, Mugar, Barber, Atamian and Ohanian families, among others.

ATP Deputy Director Jason Sohigian said the organization’s goal for the upcoming year is to plant one million trees. “We’ve never done that,” he said. “We are planning to do [similar fundraising] programs in other regions of the US. Because of the economy, we’re planning smaller events and just celebrate the ATP.”

Carolyn Mugar, who founded the ATP with her late husband, John O’Connor, said she was thrilled with the turnout. “There is a tremendous amount of support. People are coming out today showing tremendous support.” She added that she was “unbelievably grateful” to the supporters. “We can’t do it without the supporters. We wanted to do as much as we could every year and just put one foot in front of the other.”

Mugar said she was especially happy with the organization’s efforts, since not only they were reforesting it, but also creating 80 permanent full-time jobs and around 500 seasonal positions.

“We are working with the most disadvantaged [segment of society there]. We hope to be able to do as much as we can,” she noted.

Nancy Kolligian, chair of the board of the National Association for Armenian Studies and Research (NAASR), was one of the guests. (Her sister, Michelle Kolligian, a trustee of the Armenian Library and Museum of America [ALMA], was on the organizing committee for the program.) She said, “I’ve always supported the ATP and seen what it does in Armenia. Carolyn Mugar was a visionary. How can we not support this?”

Also in attendance was Rep. James McGovern (D-3rd District), who represents the Worcester area. He has long been a friend of Mugar and the hosts, the Barsamians. “I wanted to support my friends Anthony and Nancy, and Carolyn, especially since I represent the oldest Armenian-American community in the nation.

There is [even] an Armenian summer camp in my district [Camp Haiastan[. This is an incredible project. More than three million trees have been planted. It’s a major reforestation effort to restore the forests as well as create green jobs. I am very much committed to supporting it.”

In his remarks before the audience, he praised Mugar for her dedication to “so many good causes.” And, referring to the ample yard and large home of the Barsamians, he joked, “In Worcester, we call this a museum,” much to the delight of those assembled.

Masarjian in his remarks noted “it is easy to get frustrated with the challenges of Armenia. The gift of planting trees is a gift to the future generations. It helps to decrease global warming. Without a vibrant and healthy Armenia, we would become a ship without an anchor,” he said, speaking about the diasporan community.

In her remarks before those assembled Mugar stressed that the organization is able to affect changes in the attitudes of the children regarding environment efforts.

Jill Mirak said that her family’s foundation made a commitment five years ago to support a nursery in the village of Margahovit. “The nursery is capable of producing one million trees a year,” she said. “I couldn’t have dreamed the commitment would have this sort of impact. This is one of my favorite charities.”
To find out more about the organization or to make a donation, visit armeniatree.org.