Parishioners challenged to create endowment fund

Armenian Church Endowment Fund (ACEF)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Contact: Berjouhi Saladin
Tel: (212) 686-0710 Ext. 94; Fax: (212) 683-2609
E-mail: [email protected]

June 26, 2006


Last year the parishioners of the St. Gregory the Enlightener Church of
White Plains, NY, were challenged to create a secure financial footing for
future generations of that parish.

Harry Keleshian, a member of the board of directors of the Armenian Church
Endowment Fund (ACEF), stood up during the parish assembly and spoke about
the importance of creating endowment funds to benefit the parish.

"I told them how enthusiastic I am about the endowment fund. I feel the
endowment fund dictates the future of our church," Keleshian said.

At that time, the parish benefited from about $650,000 in endowment funds.
Keleshian thought the parish should have $1 million. So he and his wife
Edna challenged parishioners to establish endowment funds to benefit the
parish or put more principle into existing funds. Over the next five years
he would match any new $1,000 endowment funds benefiting the parish or
$1,000 added to existing funds.

"The idea is to get us up to $1 million over the next couple of years," he
said. "And I made it clear that you don’t have to be creating new
endowments. The people who gave before, if they give again I will match
that as well."

Last year, six new funds were started with $1,000, and Keleshian made a
matching $6,000 donation. So far this year, five new funds were started
with $1,000 and $4,000 was added to an existing fund.


Keleshian said building the endowment funds which benefit his parish allows
the church to do more ministry, outreach, and children’s programming, today
and well into the future.

"I believe so much in endowment funds and what they stand for: creating a
perpetual income for our parish," he said. "I really don’t want to see our
parish dependent upon our children. I want us to be able to minister to and
educate them, and the next generation and the next."

If his goal of building the endowment fund to $1 million is successful, the
St. Gregory the Enlightener Church would receive approximately $45,000 a
year in income in perpetuity. "That is a very good piece of change,"
Keleshian said.

The Armenian Church Endowment Fund (ACEF) is an independently chartered
organization which manages investments for endowment funds earmarked for
parishes, Diocesan ministries, organizations such as St. Nersess Armenian
Seminary, and the operations of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.

"I think the endowment fund is probably not fully understood, but with
gestures like this it will be much more understandable to the lay people in
the parish," Keleshian said. "The endowment fund is looked upon as
something for only those who have greater means. I don’t think people
understood that even $1,000 is valuable because the $1,000 is not spent and
instead generates income for generations."


The principle of the funds is never touched, only the interest made from the
investments is used to provide income to the designated beneficiaries.
ACEF’s policy is to provide beneficiaries with annual payments worth
approximately 4.5% of the invested principle, which allows organizations to
more accurately plan their budgets.

If the ACEF investments generate more than the guaranteed 4.5% needed, the
balance, minus expenses, is attached to the original principle as
undistributed appreciation. That undistributed appreciation generates more
interest in the future. It is also used to provide beneficiaries with 4.5%
distribution in years when the financial markets are not doing well.

"Endowment funds are very important, not only for the church in general, but
also for our parish," said Fr. Karekin Kasparian, pastor of the St. Gregory
the Enlightener Church of White Plains, NY. "It is especially important
because our endowment funds give some sort of guarantee that in the future
we will be able to meet our demanding and challenging expenses."

"If we reach the goal which Harry has set for us, which we will, that will
give us a substantial amount of revenue annually; that will be a great
help," Fr. Karekin added. "It certainly helps us a great deal, especially
with our education and youth work and the various liturgical programs we
have here."

Currently there are several endowment funds benefiting St. Gregory, with a
total principle of $817,038. Adding the attached undistributed
appreciation, the value of the funds increases to $980,449. That translates
into annual income of approximately $44,120 for the parish.

"Down the road, what’s happening with the cost of living, especially in our
neighborhood, the burden on the next generation will be very heavy just to
cope with their own mortgages," said former St. Gregory parish council chair
Zaven Tachdjian, who has created an endowment fund benefiting the parish.
"But we, the present generation, are working hard to leave a big chunk of
money in ACEF, so there will be money in perpetuity to help the next
generation balance budgets. For the sake of our children and their children
we’re trying to foresee potential issues that might come up and provide
funds to help."


ACEF is able to provide a steady income stream because its highly skilled
board makes decisions with the advice of talented consultants. Also, with a
portfolio of $73 million, ACEF can access investment tools individuals
cannot approach.

Those advantages have lead ACEF to generally outperform the market. In
2005, the S&P 500 saw a return of 4.9%, while the portfolio managed by ACEF
provided an annual return of approximately 7.5%.

The security of ACEF investments is making it easier to promote Keleshian’s
challenge, Tachdjian said.

"Parishioners are eager to participate knowing that this is secure money and
that it is an income stream to the parish and its budget," he said. "Any
parish has good years and bad years, and to be able to cover up any
potential deficits with this steady income is welcome. ACEF is such a great
tool, I think all parishes should push it."


Establishing an endowment fund is a way to leave a living legacy. Not only
does it provide future income, donors are also remembered by having their
names live on through their endowment fund.

"One good aspect of endowment funds is that once you give, your name is up
there with the endowment. Your name is there forever and you won’t
disappear," Keleshian said.

He was introduced to the idea of endowment funds by fellow parishioner Suren
Fesjian, one of ACEF’s original leaders, who himself lives on through his
endowment funds benefiting St. Gregory the Enlightener.

"I think that it is very important that people know when they give their
hard earned dollars, they will not be forgotten," Keleshian said. "I hope
that people understand the importance of having an endowment fund for any
parish or for the Diocese. It is important for us to maintain our identity
and our spiritual leadership, so we don’t lose the spirit of Armenia we were
brought up with."


With as little as $1,000, ACEF endowment funds can be established to benefit
any parish, Diocese, or Armenian Church related non-profit organization.
For more information on establishing an endowment fund, contact Berjouhi
Saladin by e-mailing [email protected] or by calling
(212) 686-0170 ext. 34.

* * *

Over the past two years, the following members of the St. Gregory the
Enlightener Church of White Plains, NY, have answered Harry Keleshian’s
challenge to increase the parish’s endowments by establishing or adding to
funds held by the Armenian Church Endowment Fund (ACEF):

Leon Chutjian
Thomas Daw
John and Laura Damboragian Jr.
Anahid Anita Essayan
Shahen and Sally Guiragossian
Lisa and Lenna Kouzoujian
George and Catherine Papalian
Avadis and Alice Sakalian
Irene Shadoian
Zaven and Gladys Tachdjian
John and Anita Wolohojian

— 6/26/06

E-mail photos available on request.

PHOTO CAPTION (1): Harry Keleshian, a member of the board of directors of
the Armenian Church Endowment Fund (ACEF), is personally matching endowment
funds created by his fellow parishioners to benefit his parish, the St.
Gregory the Enlightener Church of White Plains, NY.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS