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Community: YMCA blood drive commemorates genocide

Event continues a tradition from 1922 when YMCA official saved lives.

May 01, 2012|By Joyce Rudolph

Glendale YMCA officials are hosting a blood drive in commemoration of the Armenian genocide. Organizers say it's a way to bring the community together while continuing a tradition of saving lives.

The blood drive will be from 1 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Glendale YMCA's Youth Fitness Center, 130 N. Louise St. Walk-ins are welcome, but for appointments, call (818) 240-4130, ext. 34 or visit www.redcrossblood.org and enter sponsor code ANCGlendale. To give blood, one must be at least 16 years old and weigh 110 pounds. A valid identification card is required.

The YMCA is conducting the drive in partnership with the Armenian National Committee of Glendale, the American Red Cross, the Armenian Youth Federation's Roupen Chapter, the city of Glendale and Homenetmen Glendale Ararat Chapter, said Doug Nies, Glendale native and chairman of the YMCA board of directors.

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Known as the first genocide of the 20th century, the Armenian genocide resulted in the mass murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks, beginning in 1915. The 97th commemoration of the event was marked on April 24, 2012.

The YMCA's support of the Armenians' plight started with Asa Jennings in 1922, Nies said.

“Asa Jennings was a YMCA employee who in 11 days saved 350,000 Greek and Armenian lives,” he said. “He was in the right place at the right time, with the right value system, to save lives. The following year he saved 1.25 million Greek and Armenian refugees. It is an amazing story that gets lost in the pages of history. It is documented but often overlooked.”

Jennings was awarded the highest military decoration of Greece, the Medal of Military Merit, and the highest civilian decoration, the Golden Cross of St. Xavier.

The YMCA is conducting the blood drive as part of this year's commemoration because there is a large constituency of Armenians in Glendale, Nies said.

“We want to be sensitive to their needs and concerns and create a better understanding of their culture and why they are passionate and concerned about the genocide,” he said.

The most integral role of the YMCA in Glendale is to be a harmonizing entity of the community, said George Saikali, the chief executive officer of the YMCA, who lives in Burbank. The goal, he said, is to move from diversity to celebrating our differences.

Glendale YMCA members are a reflection of the community, and friendships are forming between all ethnicities and walks of life, he said.

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