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Family Rescue Fund Supports Armenian Community

Since its founding in 2014, Family Rescue Fund has worked to support the Armenian community in both Armenia and in the United States through health, social and educational programs as well as supporting veterans from the Artsakh war.

Naz Atikian, president and founder of FRF, began the nonprofit after returning to Armenia since immigrating to the United States in 1985. While Atikian had gone back to Armenia many times, her 2014 trip impacted her greatly.

“When you go into the city [in Armenia], it is so beautiful. Everything is so nice,” she told the Review. “You don’t even think for one minute how many poor people we have living in Armenia in villages.”

The organization began with the goal of providing under resourced Armenian families with the bare essentials: housing, clothing, etc., but expanded its mission as more opportunities for assistance presented themselves, said Arminé Chaparyan, South Pasadena’s city manager and FRF’s former treasurer of the board.

“With each transition in needs, Family Rescue Fund has been phenomenal like a chameleon in transitioning our role and trying to cater to the population that needs our help at that time,” Chaparyan told the Review in reference to the organization’s efforts to support soldiers during and after the Artsakh war in 2020.

Partnering with the Zinvori Tun Rehabilitation Center in Armenia, FRF provided the funds for the establishment of the first center dedicated to treating soldiers with severe craniocerebral injuries, which was completed in 2022. Additionally, FRF helped renovate 12 rooms in the center’s surgical unit, as well as houses and apartments of soldiers who returned from war with a disability that required their home be adapted to their new condition. FRF also sponsors dance classes at the center for military veterans as a form of art therapy to promote mental health.

Jacqueline Tomasian, vice president of FRF, emphasized the importance of the organization’s ties to both the United States and Armenia. In addition to its work with the Zun Tun Rehabilitation center, FRF has donated $50,000 to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in Little Armenia. The organization also donates money to Armenian schools in California to allow for the implementation of programs and projects to encourage students to embrace their Armenian heritage.

“We are citizens of this country, so we are American and at the same time, we never forget our heritage in Armenia,” Tomasian told the Review. “Our responsibility is to help in America with all the organization we can do, and also go back home and do whatever we can do there. It’s a combination.”

Tomasian, who recently returned from a mission trip to Armenia, discussed the importance of getting young people involved in the organization’s outreach efforts, adding that many college students from UCLA, UC San Diego and UC Berkeley gain valuable experience from these trips. She recalled her son saying he learned more in 10 days working with FRF than he did in a whole semester at UCLA.

FRF prides itself on being 100% volunteer based, meaning no one gets a paycheck, said Atikian. The organization’s mission to provide relief and resources to Armenian families and veterans is enough to attract both members and donors, said Chaparyan.

“We’ve been able to attract a very strong, steady working group of individuals, whether you’re on the board or on a committee, it’s a working group because it’s boots on the ground,” Chaparyan said. “Everyone’s expected to roll up their sleeves and be a part of all the initiatives.”

Family Rescue Fund has 17 board members, 12 volunteers on a committee and 14 youth members.

Dee Chorlian, Atikian’s sister and FRF board member, boasted that the organization is made up of professional, savvy women.

“We’re all ladies by the way,” she told the Review. “We used to have some guys, but I think the woman power was too strong.” The community trusts FRF because its transparent nature allows donors to choose which program their money is going to and actually see the results, she added.

FRF relies on donations as well as funds and materials generated by their various fundraising events, such as winter coat drives, annual galas with silent auctions, holiday events and the opportunity to adopt a child in Armenia for the holiday to provide toys and support. Brands such as Versace and Vista Alegre have donated items to be auctioned at FRF events, said Chorlian. The organization’s November 2022 gala raised more than $200,000 alone.

Atikian expressed her gratitude for how much the organization has been able to accomplish over the years.

“The thing is, we do so much. Sometimes when you want to talk about it, it’s so much that people don’t believe you can establish something like that,” she said. “But we do it somehow. God gives us the strength and God gives us people who are willing to donate, and we do it.”

First published in the Aug. 25 issue of the South Pasadena Review

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