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(SAN DIEGO) – The Knights of Vartan, Gomidas Tahlij #43 of San Diego has donated a commissioned painting of St. Vartan and Ghevont Yeretz for the side altar of St. Sarkis Armenian Church, San Diego.

The painting by Armenian artist Tigran Hovumyan was dedicated and blessed by His Eminence Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese, and parish priest Very Rev. Father Pakrad Dz. V Berjekian, on Sunday, February 5, 2023, as part of St. Sarkis’ First Anniversary Celebration.

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Knights of Vartan’s Nareg-Shavarshan Lodge Renovating KV #106 School in Yerevan

Knights of Vartan Inc. Nareg-Shavarshan Lodge in Greater Detroit is continuing to make improvements at the Knight of Vartan #106 School in Yerevan, Armenia.  Since 2018, the Lodge will have raised $61,500 for renovation projects at this school.

The Knights of Vartan, in 1993, initiated the “Adopt  A School Project (AASP)” to financially assist  public schools in the Republic of Armenia.  During the early years of Armenia’s independence, the  new Republic did not have the resources to adequately fund the needs of its public school system. With inadequate teacher salaries, deteriorated conditions of school facilities and a lack of school supplies, helping schools in Armenia was a worthwhile endeavor for the organization.

It was at this time the Knights of Vartan made significant improvements to School #106 in Nor Nork, Yerevan. After a few years of cooperation the school was renamed Knights of Vartan School #106 and Past Grand Commander (PGC) Everett Berberian and PGC Ara Avakian traveled to Armenia on April 5, 1995 to attend the ceremony marking this event.

For a few years the Knights of Vartan (KV) implemented additional projects in the school, built in the 1960’s, through the Armenian Social Investment Fund (ASIF.)  Some of the major renovations after Armenia’s independence at this time included installing a new central heating system, replacing the roof and many of the windows and doors and what was supposed to be renovation of the gymnasium.

However, the windows installed in the 1960s remained in place in the gymnasium hence one could easily see broken windows, warped wooden floors placed over the ground (dirt) and peeling plaster on the walls due to excessive humidity from poor drainage and air circulation.  

In 2016 the Knights of Vartan celebrated the 100th Anniversary of its founding in Yerevan. The Grand Commander that year, Steven Kradjian, reestablished a relationship with the KV School #106 Principal, Marine Vardanyan, and invited her to attend the organization’s official event.

Coincidently she was a graduate of the same school and her mother was one of the first teachers there. This facility is not just a job for Mrs. Vardanyan but rather she considers it her identity.  Because of her exemplary administrative skills and intellectual insight, she has raised the standard level of education which has resulted in the doubling of the number of students attending the school. In addition, she formed a club to stage plays and perform recitals and created a singing and dancing group.   Even with scarce resources available, Mrs. Vardanyan was able to purchase new desks and replace some of the windows and doors, but large amounts of money would be needed to complete the required number of necessary improvements. 

The next project in support of the KV School #106 was initiated by then Grand Commander Dr. Gary Zamanigian while on one of the organization’s Veratarts Hayrenik Mission Trips in 2017. Appalled by the deplorable condition of the gymnasium, he was inspired and determined to make certain it would be renovated in 2018. He said recently “I couldn’t believe my eyes when I actually saw the condition of the gym; at that moment I felt nothing is going to stop me from acquiring the necessary funds to refurbish the gym”. During one calendar year $30,000 was raised by Nareg-Shavarshan Lodge members to complete the project.  Additionally, $2,600 was donated by Arshavir Lodge in Worcester to purchase new gym equipment which was available for use when the students returned to school in September 2019. The Paros Foundation was contracted by the Detroit Lodge to implement the project and they did so in a manner far beyond the expectation of all who were able to see the end result.

The Gymnasium before renovation

The renovation included replacing the old windows throughout the 284 square meter gym, installing new vinyl gym flooring on cement with proper drainage, installing new electrical wiring, 21 light switches and plugs, repairing the heating system, restoring the plaster and painting the walls and the ceiling, installing new ceramic tiles in the locker rooms, installation of new netting over the windows to protect them from damage and installation of new basketball backboards, rims and nets.

In September 2019, the Knights of Vartan “Back to the Homeland” group, led by Grand Commander Steven Adams, attended the ribbon cutting ceremony officially opening the fully renovated gymnasium. The school’s younger children presented a beautiful program with dancing and acrobatics and the play “Vartanank” was preformed by upper grade students.

Knights and Daughters of Vartan at the KV 106 School new gymnasium after renovation, 2019

In the past, Mrs. Vardanyan had created a list of much needed renovations by priority. It included replacing the remaining old windows and doors of classrooms, changing all the outdated electric wires from the 1960s and a total renovation of the auditorium with a gradual incline  of the floors for easy viewing.

Nareg-Shavarshan Lodge once again, with PGC Dr. Gary Zamanigian as the initiator, pledged to raise the needed funds for the final renovation. Gomidas Lodge in San Diego having been informed of the project has already made a much appreciated monetary contribution proving that in the Knights of Vartan “brothers help brothers”.

In the future additional improvements will be made as needed and they will continue to be implemented by the excellent work of the Paros Foundation.