AGBU YP Northern California’s Annual Winter Gala Raises $4,000 for Humanitarian Work in Syria and Armenia

A 14-year-old tradition took on new meaning this year at the AGBU Young Professionals of Northern California’s (YPNC) San Francisco Annual Winter Gala Weekend, which garnered significant support for Armenians both in war-torn Syria and the border village of Barekamavan, Armenia. From Friday, February 15 to Sunday, February 17, 2013, 300 young professionals gathered in the city for a weekend filled with fundraising and social events that raised $4,000 for humanitarian initiatives abroad.

On Friday, a meet-and-greet at the host hotel, downtown’s Sir Francis Drake, set an exciting tone for the weekend, which catered to locals and out-of-towners alike. Keeping the momentum going, nearly 250 YPs headed to the SoMa District later that evening for the longtime favorite Club Night. This year, YPNC also introduced a brand-new activity, a Sunday tour on San Francisco’s iconic cable cars, which took guests to some of the most popular tourist attractions – from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge and past the “Painted Ladies,” the 19th century Victorian homes that have come to define the city.

The Winter Gala weekend gave YPs an opportunity not only to connect with one another but to remember the ties that bind them to Armenians at risk overseas: in Syria, where the conflict rages on, and in Barekamavan, where poverty is widespread. The weekend’s signature event, the Saturday night gala at the San Francisco War Memorial Performing Arts Center, featured prominent journalist Lara Setrakian as the keynote speaker, who put the focus on the plight of Syrian Armenians.

Ms. Setrakian, who has been working in the Middle East as a Bloomberg Television correspondent and ABC News reporter for years, described the daily struggles for families in Aleppo, Damascus, Kamishly, and across the country and the region. She remarked, “The Syrian civil war – their war – is one of the defining events of our time. It defines their fate. It defines the future of the Middle East. It defines what it means to be Armenian in our generation – whether we step up and take care of each other in an hour of desperate need,” issuing a powerful appeal to support AGBU’s relief efforts on the ground. For a copy of Lara Setrakian’s address, visit www.agbu.org.

Funds raised throughout the weekend will allow AGBU to continue to meet the urgent needs of thousands of Armenian families in Syria, as well as those who have been displaced to Armenia and Lebanon. At the same time, it will enable the AGBU Young Professionals Network to implement Phase 2 of its “Go Green” campaign, the Pan-YP Greenhouse Project in rural Barekamavan. YPNC and Gala Co-Chair Steven Cherezian remarked on the event’s great impact, stating, “The success of the weekend is a testament to the hard work of our committee, and it truly paid off as we were able to bring hundreds of young professionals together to contribute to two deserving charities.” The contributions to the YP Greenhouse Project will help bring fresh crops and sustainable development to the struggling Barekamavan community. Conceived, funded and developed entirely by YP Groups around the world, the “Go Green” initiative has its roots in the 2009 AGBU Young Professionals Biennial Assembly in Chicago. In 2010-11, over a dozen international YP Groups joined forces in Phase 1 to build a vibrant new park in the border village of Khachik that local residents enjoy today.

As the Winter Gala guests said goodbye to San Francisco, they knew it would not be for long: this August, many will return to the city for AGBU FOCUS (www.agbufocus.org), the four-day biennial affair for Armenian young professionals. YPNC and Gala Co-Chair Greg Nemet commented, “We are thrilled with the success of this year’s Gala and were happy to host many new faces…we accomplished what we set out to do – bringing the YP network together for an amazing weekend and raising funds for two important charities. Now we move forward with planning for FOCUS 2013!”

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