With a boundless and generous spirit, Steven Hovagimian wants to know who he can help.
Sitting in his Glendale office, Steven Hovagimian clicks through Facebook pictures at his desk. One shows him in a dress, wig and jewelry pretending to be an old Armenian woman in a comedy skit to raise money for Glendale’s Unified Young Armenians group. In that same photo, the real woman standing next to him, he said, is his wife.
“She says I’m crazy, but says, ‘You’re doing all this for the kids, so, why not?’”
He supports Unified Young Armenians (UYA) with encouragement, time and his endearing sense of humor when he’s not working as a social worker for Los Angeles County or as a deacon with the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church or as a TV show host on “Cornerstone” (“Himnakar” in Armenian), which airs on AMGA, a local Armenian TV network that airs over Charter Cable Channel 380.
He believes that some Armenian children living Los Angeles between 1976 and early 1990s were not properly cared for, so he promised to join a young movement.
“Not dictate, not command. But help them,” he said.
Eleven years ago, at the start of UYA’s founding, Hovagimian, 48, told the group, “I’m going to be your friend.”
A demographic of high-school-aged kids through 30-year-olds, UYA raises funds for international causes and works locally, removing graffiti and offering a free Saturday class teaching Armenian culture and language.
When the group meets with conflict, UYA chairman Aroutin Hartounian, 24, said, Hovagimian will say, “‘This is my suggestion. Feel free to take it. Whatever you want to do, I support you.’”
Kids as young as 11 look up to Hovagimian, Hartounian said. “We wish more people were like him. I wish I was like him,” he said.
Born in Syria, by age 11, Hovagimian’s parents agreed for priests to take him from his Lebanon home to a monastery in Vienna, Austria, where he prayed and worked 15 hours a day. He lived in Vienna until meeting his wife.
Their two children were born and raised in Glendale, and speaking about them, Hovagimian said softly, “They are like — my life.”
As a deacon, Hovagimian will sometimes give the sermon for Father Mikael Kyuregyan, 71, at Kyuregyan’s last-minute request.
“He does it with great joy and without any warning,” Kyuregyan said.
On “Cornerstone,” Hovagimian speaks on healthy family values and relationships. He started speaking on television with the AMGA show “New Generation” in 1993.
On television, Hovagimian is known to discuss sensitive topics pertaining to Glendale’s Armenian community, but they are universal in scope. He willfully raises issues that many avert their attention from.
“Don’t deny that we have teenage pregnancy, don’t put it [away] like skeletons in the closet. Don’t deny that we have a gang problem. Don’t deny that we have materialistic urges,” he said.
It is not that Hovagimian is “a peace dove in the world,” as he relays it. He knows humans will always face conflict. His energy is spent on solutions, certain that every person is blessed with a gift, his being a love of fellow humans.
“Maybe it’s all those years of isolation in the monastery,” he said, “But I love people.”
In working with others, the only visible hurdle to Hovagimian is the barrier that death creates.
“Anything else, you can do. I’m not going to be able to please everybody,” he said. “What I can do, at least, I can say, ‘Hi. How can I help you?’”