GLENDALE — On October 16, Armenia Fund kicked off its 17th Annual Telethon, which will be taking place on Thanksgiving Day 2014. Leaders from Armenia and the Diaspora gathered at Phoenicia Restaurant in Glendale, where the projects of the past year and plans for the coming year were discussed. This year’s Telethon will be dedicated to raising the money needed to finish the Vardenis-Martakert highway – already partially completed – and continue several other ongoing projects.

Guest of honor, Deputy Prime Minister of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and Artsakh War veteran, Artur Aghabekyan, spoke about the importance of the Vardenis-Martakert road to trade, agriculture, local manufacturing, and tourism. He added that the additional tie between Artsakh and the rest of Armenia would have a significant impact on Artsakh’s economic growth and general well-being.

Last year, $11.25 million was raised to build the road while the remainder of the $22.6 million raised was earmarked by donors for other Armenia Fund projects, including bringing drinking water to villages, schools, healthcare, and agricultural development. The total cost of building the Vardenis-Martakert highway is $33 million.

The work is already underway, as described by Armenia Fund executive director, Sarkis Kotanjian. “The path for the highway, measuring 72 miles, has already been fully widened and the foundation has been laid. Along the way, 16 bridges have been replaced or reconstructed and loose soil and riverbanks have been reinforced to prevent against erosion. Two layers of asphalt have been poured over the first nine miles of road.”

Integral to economic development and security, the Vardenis-Martakert highway will increase trade by promoting the free flow of goods, allowing for greater trade with Russia and Georgia. This less curvy scenic road into and out of Artsakh will also encourage tourism which will benefit the areas around it. Kotanjian states that the road will pay for itself quickly, saying the “Goris-Stepanakert highway cost about $11 million but foreign tourists have spent almost $45 million in the areas served by it since the road was opened.”

Antranig Baghdassarian, chairman of Armenia Fund, spoke plainly: “Each one of us has a responsibility for our homeland’s security.” It was in this vein that Armenia Fund was created 23 years ago, with the sole purpose of strengthening Armenia, he said.

During this year’s kickoff gala, a short documentary was shown about benefactor Jerry Turpanjian, who will be honored for his significant contributions to Armenia and Artsakh during the Armenia Fund Annual Banquet Gala to be held on November 23.

Among leaders present were Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Glendale Mayor Zareh Sinanyan, and representatives of Armenia Fund member organizations, reflecting a broad cross-section of the Armenian community in the United States.

In California, the Telethon will air live for 12 hours on Thursday, November 27, 2014, from 8AM to 8PM PST. It will be broadcast on KSCI Channel 18 in Los Angeles, KTSF Channel 26 in San Francisco, KSAO Channel 49 in Sacramento, and KGMC Channel 43 in Fresno, and on all Los Angeles-based Armenian television networks. The Telethon will also be webcasted on www.armeniafund.org.

Donations can be made over the phone by calling 1-800-888-8897 or through a secure server connection at armeniafund.org/donate starting now.

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