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INSPIRING WOMAN CONTRIBUTES TO ARARAT CENTER

(GREENVILLE, NY) – “She was gracious, intelligent and loved children,” shared Rose Najarian-Kedeshian, Ararat Center Board member, about Elaine Bakalian, an amazing woman she met last year and knew for a short period before her passing. “She was someone you could talk with about anything.”

Dr. Sam Mikaelian, former Executive Director of the Diocese, who also had the privilege of meeting Elaine, concurs with Rose’s sentiment. Sam and Rose visited Elaine together last year at a nursing home in New Jersey after Elaine contacted a local church to make arrangements for her husband’s hokehankist (requiem service) and also inquired about the Ararat Center.

Elaine made an indelible impression on Dr. Mikaelian. “In talking with her she showed a deep understanding and appreciation of the Armenian people,” he said. “Sometimes it takes the generosity of an outsider to illuminate the true treasure of your own family.”

Elaine herself was not Armenian. Born in Honolulu, Hawaii, Elaine Eiko Ljiri met and married Levon Bakalian from Paterson, NJ, upon graduating from Columbia University in NYC where they met. Both Levon, whom friends called Leo, and Elaine were devoted teachers and loved to travel. In fact, Elaine traveled to Armenia, loved the Armenian customs which she continued to teach others, and learned to cook delicious Armenian cuisine from her sister-in-laws.

Described by her niece, Hope Koyama, Elaine was intelligent, articulate, compassionate, and soft-spoken with a wonderful sense of humor. “In talking to Elaine prior to her passing, she was very content and happy that she was able to do something for the Armenian cause, especially since it dealt with the children,” explained Hope. “Having been a teacher, this is truly where her heart lay. My aunt was a proponent for anything dealing with learning.”

Elaine’s sincerity and love for the Armenian people, and especially the children, led her to contribute $100,000 towards the Ararat Center’s multipurpose pavilion in the name of her and her husband.

The pavilion project consists of a large covered picnic area that will also be used as a basketball court and central gathering place for groups. Attached to the back half of the pavilion will be four large classrooms that are very much in need to properly conduct summer camp programs and double as storage during the off season. Bathrooms are also included in the building plans. Similar to the other Ararat Center buildings and recreational facilities that have been named after historic Armenian regions, this particular facility will be known as Sepastia.

The pavilion and classroom structure has been projected to cost nearly $400,000 and will greatly enhance the Ararat Center. Elaine’s contribution will be combined with two other earmarked contributions that will cover approximately half of the cost. A campaign is currently underway to raise the remaining half in order to start construction immediately. Architectural plans, designed by Ararat Center Board member Thomas Ashbahian, a New Jersey architect, are set and preliminary county approvals have been given to begin building onsite.

In addition to the generous contribution Elaine Bakalian made to the Ararat Center pavilion project, she also established a charitable trust for which three percent annually will be allotted to the Ararat Center.

“She has left an amazing legacy for our children and our people,” explained Rose who was emotional upon learning of Elaine’s passing in mid-September of 2005. “God works in mysterious ways, I’m thankful she came into my life for such a short time,” concluded Rose who explained that she felt as if Elaine was a family member.

To learn more about the pavilion project in which Elaine supported for the benefit of children’s programs held at the Ararat Center, please e-mail contact@araratcenter.org.