Four months have passed since Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the coast of Texas, eventually leaving the city of Houston with the worst flood emergency in its history. Severely affected by the disaster were members of the St. Kevork Armenian Church, many of whose families were displaced by Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. Family homes became uninhabitable; belongings of a lifetime were lost.
As news of the emergency broke, the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America consulted with leaders of the afflicted community to see how best to provide assistance.
St. Kevork pastor Fr. Martiros Hakobyan and parish council chair Areg Sahakian estimated that a quarter of the families had experienced significant, long-lasting adversity. While the church sanctuary was relatively unharmed, among the flood casualties was St. Kevork’s parish house, which was left uninhabitable.
Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian sent a directive to parishes designating that special collections be taken every Sunday through September, to help the Houston parishioners. Funds were released week-by-week to help those who needed it most.
In October the Primate visited Houston for a weekend of healing and celebration with the St. Kevork parishioners. He met with families affected by Hurricane Harvey at the home of Dr. Roupen Dekmezian. Over lunch, eight families shared their stories of devastation, and received Archbishop Barsamian’s blessing as well as gifts of support from the Diocesan fundraising effort.
Help to Afflicted Families
On December 13, the Diocese issued a directive to update the community on the results of the campaign and the progress of the Houston parishioners.
“I am pleased to inform you that thanks to the generosity of so many parishioners and friends, a total of $129,000 was raised for this effort,” announced the Primate in the directive.
“Of that amount, $86,000 was raised by our Diocesan drive and forwarded to St. Kevork Church in a timely fashion. Some $15,000 was raised in Houston, while $28,000 was received from donors in California and other parts of the United States.
The directive went on to report that $48,000 had been distributed to date among 24 St. Kevork families, with another $46,000 scheduled to be distributed among them shortly. A sum of $35,000 had been used for the repair of St. Kevork’s parish house. Additionally, Diocesan benefactor Aso Tavitian provided $5,000 in assistance to each of two families whose homes were destroyed. The latter funds were directly administered to the respective families.
The Primate concluded the directive as follows: “Let me express my deepest appreciation to our clergy and parish leaders for supporting this Diocesan-wide fundraising effort. And through you let me thank all of the parishioners who generously put their faith into action by their participation. In this season of our Lord’s nativity, may he bless your beautiful gifts of faithful friendship and solidarity.”
– C. H. Zakian