LOS ANGELES--Philanthropy and star power joined forces on Saturday, November 7, for a high-energy farm-table dinner hosted by Armenia Tree Project (ATP), System of a Down frontman Serj Tankian and actor David Alpay.
TreePeople in Beverly Hills was the setting for the unique outdoor dinner, where nearly 400 guests gathered to enjoy a magical evening in nature and to support ATP's projects. Billed as "glamping" ("glamorous camping," a recent trend), the event combined a rustic setting with elegant presentations to promote the ATP's greening mission.
Serj Tankian is a long-time friend of ATP with a record of advocacy for forest conservation and a clean, healthy environment free of dirty mining.
Addressing guests at the event, Tankian talked about the organization's unique mission: "It's a no-brainer that I stand behind the work of Armenia Tree Project, which is helping citizens in the Diaspora and Armenia undergo an environmental awakening. It's hard to look at the big picture and to make people understand that with the collapse of Armenia's ecosystem, would come the end of our nation. The magic of ATP is that it makes people understand this reality."
David Alpay--since his pilgrimage to Armenia and visits to ATP's tree planting sites in 2008--has been closely affiliated with the organization. "ATP plants trees, and by doing so it promotes education, economic independence and food security by giving villages fruit trees. But its mandate runs deeper. It is nation-building in its most sacred form. When you contribute to ATP, when you plant a tree, you spread roots in the ground," Alpay explained to his many fans at the dinner.
Joining Tankian and Alpay, founder Carolyn Mugar underscored the nation-building component of the mission: "We do this because we believe in Armenia," she said, adding that early on, when there were other pressing needs, people questioned why she chose to plant trees. But, Mugar stressed, working to establish a system of sustainable forestry ensures there will be an Armenia capable of sustaining coming generations. To that end, ATP's focus is also on educating the youngest of citizens to be environmentally conscious and vigilant, she said.
Executive Director Jeanmarie Papelian thanked the volunteer committee for its hard work and explained the mission of tree planting and environmental education, making a special note about the Living Century Initiative launched this year for the centennial of the genocide. To the delight of the crowd, she announced that this year ATP will plant its five millionth tree.
Musical trio Armenian Public Radio provided the entertainment for the evening, complementing the rustic yet trendy setting with their innovative interpretations of traditional Armenian selections.
The evening's fare, prepared by Daily Dose and Seta's Cafe, included paella selections, root vegetables, artisan cheeses, charcuterie, and the now-famous Tavit Burger (named after David Alpay). The volunteer committee that helped organize the event included Christina Assadvazadorian, Anna Hovasapian, Lorraine Diaz Issavi, Christine Jerian Kharmandalian, Ani Kenderian, Margarita Melikjanian, Margaret Mgrublian, Anahid Oshagan, Vahagn Thomasian, Lucy Varpetian and Sahag Yedalian.
"It was a dynamic evening and the perfect environment to introduce the work of ATP to a new group of California Armenians," explained West Coast Development Director Maral Habeshian, who spearheaded the organization of the event. "With this heightened level of awareness, our goal will be to further involve the California community in building a healthy and environmentally sound Armenia."