Clothes and Humanitarian Aid Shipped to Paros Lighthouse Foundation In Armenia from NJ Knights/Daughters of Vartan at St. Leon Church


 
Loading boxes at St. Leon Armenian Church on April 27 for shipping to Armenia
 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
By Aram Arkun
Mirror-Spectator Staff
 
FAIR LAWN, N.J. — Poverty and desperation still takes its toll in the Republic of Armenia, but money is not the only way to help. One alternative is to donate clothing or other humanitarian items to the Paros Lighthouse Foundation in Armenia via the Knights and Daughters of Vartan in New Jersey at St. Leon Armenian Church. After clothing and other items are collected, they are loaded at the church and shipped to Armenia. The most recent shipment was loaded out on April 27. Knights member Leo Manuelian provided some information on how the process works.

 

Harut (“Harry”) Chantikian has been sending clothes to Armenia ever since that nation’s independence almost 20 years ago, through various organizations. He became affiliated with the Paros Lighthouse Foundation, and a few years ago he spoke at one of the Bakradouny Lodge meetings of the Knights of Vartan. He explained that he needed a place to sort out his clothes. It happened that the church owned a house on its property that was being used for storage. The Parish Council discussed the project and eventually decided to permit its use.
 
Chantikian had a backlog of clothing to box, which took two months, during which time efforts were made to persuade local Armenians to bring in their clothing for donation. Every week they advertised in the church bulletin.
After sending out two 20-foot containers, the volume of donations began to increase from Armenians in other churches in the area, as well as from a non-Armenian church nearby, the Central Unitarian Church of Paramus. Members of the Knights and Daughters of Vartan as well as non-members who are in the St. Leon parish came every Saturday to box and label for about three hours. Manuelian said, “The clothes began to come in such volume that we did not have a moment to breathe. Every Saturday we packed 60 to 70 boxes, so we soon reached 500, then 700 and finally 1,000 boxes. We ordered a 40-foot container. Harry put the manifest together listing the dimensions, weight and contents of each numbered box. We give tax writeoffs, if requested. Chantikian then sends the paperwork to the Paros Lighthouse Foundation, who ordered a container, which is paid for by the United Armenian fund. The containers are the size of an 18-wheel flatbed truck, all steel.

The filled boxes are stored in the house until the truck arrives. The driver will only wait two hours for the truck to be loaded, and then seals the container. That seal is numbered and the number is used for tracking purposes. On April 27, 1,050 boxes had been assembled.

Chantikian, born in Cuba, speaks Spanish, therefore he was able to find four- or five-day laborers to take the boxes outside, and then when the truck arrives do the loading. The container goes via sea, eventually reaching Poti, Georgia, from which it is sent on a truck to Armenia.

Manuelian and others from New Jersey have visited the Paros Lighthouse Foundation facility in a small village called Bdghounk, about 15 minutes outside Yerevan. The Ghazarian family, Seta and her husband Zuhrab, started the foundation.

Originally from Beirut, they live in California. They built a warehouse in Bdghunk, and also completed a 10,000-square-foot facility to take care of runaway girls — victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. The foundation prepares donations to needy villages.

Manuelian explained, “They would ask the mayor for a list of a hundred, or more, neediest families with the sex and age of their children. Using the list they would put bags of clothing together, one item for each adult, two for each child and a pair of shoes for each child. Also, with the cash donations they receive, they purchase cooking oil, canned goods and foodstuff for distribution. They also distribute wheelchairs, walkers and canes. They sponsor surgeries for families. For example, people with disabilities, like a 16-year-old deaf girl, who needed an operation to be able to hear, for $800 per ear. Her family had not been able to afford this, leaving her deprived of hearing. Even wedding gowns are collected, so that Paros can give them to any woman getting married at a church who says she cannot afford her own. Paros focuses on the needs of Armenian women and children. They provide dental/medical care, mental counseling, career training and bible study.”

Manuelian visited the Paros establishment twice in Armenia and left confident that the donations from America were being handled properly and distributed to those in true need.

Others from New Jersey have done the same. Most recently, the co-founder of Paros, Seta Ghazarian, has sent out a desperate appeal for funds. The number of poor in Armenia asking for food has increased dramatically. Ghazarian said there are many women with bones sticking out. The situation motivated her to start a soup kitchen. Armenian refugees in Armenia from Iraq also are in bad shape. Manuelian will visit Paros in July, and so he has started a small fundraising drive, with several hundred dollars already raised.

The Knights/Daughters and others at St. Leon began collecting again on May 14 and every Saturday. They are looking for gently used clean clothes that are not torn or stained. No short shorts or bikinis are suitable for Armenia, and underwear, socks, shoes, sheets and pillowcases can only be accepted if brand new and in original packaging. Brand new packaged toys are acceptable, but none with batteries since these would require extra expenses for the recipients.

Tablecloths, curtains, fabric, pots, pans, flatware, cutlery, handbags, canes, walkers, wheelchairs, bicycles, school supplies, computers (Pentium 3 or better), computer monitors (flat screen only), glasses and dishes are also desired. Fashion accessories, games, books, music (tapes, disks, or records), wall hangings, clocks and tools are not considered suitable as humanitarian aid. Manuelian estimates that the value of the merchandise collected and shipped through St. Leon facilities to Armenia has exceeded one million dollars.

For more information, see www.parosfoundation.com, or come to St. Leon Armenian Church on Saturdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Pickup of donations can also be arranged through Leo/Sona at (201) 746-0409 or Harry at (201) 556-9061.

FAIR LAWN, N.J. — Poverty and desperation still takes its toll in the Republic of Armenia, but money is not the only way to help. One alternative is to donate clothing or other humanitarian items to the Paros Lighthouse Foundation in Armenia via the Knights and Daughters of Vartan in New Jersey at St. Leon Armenian Church. After clothing and other items are collected, they are loaded at the church and shipped to Armenia. The most recent shipment was loaded out on April 27. Knights member Leo Manuelian provided some information on how the process works.