ATP founder Carolyn Mugar, West Coast Building Bridges Manager Anahit Gharibyan and Flora Dunaians
LOS ANGELES–Armenia Tree Project officially began its 20th anniversary celebrations with what can only be called a bustling outdoor gathering amid the lush gardens of the Huntington Library, Art Collection, and Botanical Gardens in San Marino, California. Long-time supporters and new friends joined founder Carolyn Mugar to celebrate two decades of planting and greening all corners of Armenia and promoting environmental consciousness throughout the country.
After cocktails on the Art Gallery Loggia and dinner at the South Terrace of what was once the Huntington family residence, senior Obama administration official Matt Bogoshian began the program as Master of Ceremonies. “Organizations like ATP are creating jobs, and doing it in a way that is good for the planet. It’s all a part of the ‘triple bottom line,’” he explained, alluding to the importance of people, profit, and the planet.
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Bogoshian, who promotes sustainability initiatives and develops policy on pollution prevention in the Obama Administration, addressed the role ATP plays in reducing global climate change: "By planting trees, ATP is actually at the cutting edge on this issue. Your work can be used as a model to show other countries how to do reforestation and introduce solutions to this global crisis. ATP can set an example to save the world."
In his keynote address, Matthew Karanian, author of "Armenia and Karabakh: The Stone Garden Travel Guide", spoke about the positive ecological and economic impact ATP has on Armenia. "Reforestation is not as simple as planting trees. Once a forest has been lost to clear cutting, its biological diversity cannot easily be replaced", Karanian explained. "The Tree Project recognizes this, and this is why ATP does more than plant trees. It also educates about the need to save, and manage, and conserve the trees we already have."
Special guests who joined ATP to celebrate the milestone included former Secretary of the US Navy and Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul Ignatius and award-winning journalist and author Mark Arax.
ATP gala benefactors Haig and Hilda Manjikian with their extended families
Introduced as a leader with a long resume of effecting social change and a committed citizen changing the world, founder Carolyn Mugar addressed the human face of ATP. She expressed heartfelt gratitude to the thousands of friends who have helped ATP fight poverty and unemployment in rural villages by establishing tree nurseries, community planting sites, and fruit orchards. "This project is you all, and our people in Armenia", she said. "You won't believe how much of 'a village' it takes to do all of this."
She invited guests to visit ATP's various projects and sites. "See it for yourself. See the nurseries, education centers, and planting sites, and meet the people that are doing this work in communities all over Armenia and Artsakh. Please call us if you plan to go because everyone should do it."
In closing, Mugar amusingly added, "ATP is not an NGO, a non-governmental organization, we are an NGU, meaning Never Give Up!"
Since its inception in 1994, ATP has planted more than 4.4 million trees during 41 seasons of planting, established three nurseries and two environmental education centers, and has greened villages, churches, parks, and open spaces throughout Armenia. In the process, the organization has provided employment for hundreds of people and provided vital resources to thousands of villagers throughout the country.