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Glendale Group Sponsors Congressional Trip

Stronger trade ties between the U.S. and Armenia may be on the horizon thanks to Glendale-based Armenia Fund, which rounded up a group of U.S. Congressmen for three-day trip to Armenia in mid-September. “(Legislators) have a long-term impact by opening up trade and the economy,” Armenia Fund President Marian Mehranian said. “This was a preliminary look at promoting trade and commerce.” A delegation including California Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, Congressman David Valadao and Congresswoman Jackie Speier accompanied the organization to Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, from Sept. 19 to Sept. 21. They were joined by Congressman Frank Pallone from New Jersey; Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin; and Hawaii Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, as well as a group of 40 doctors from Glendale Adventist Hospital. “That’s an area that has great medical need,” Mehranian said. The doctors performed outpatient surgeries and taught medical students at a hospital on the border of Georgia and Armenia, she said. While the Adventist Hospital physicians have been conducting an annual mission trip to the region in partnership with Armenia Fund for the past three years, it has been more than a decade since the Armenia Fund has arranged for a visit from U.S. leaders, Mehranian said. “The delegates saw firsthand the kind of humanitarian aid the Armenia Fund has brought,” she said. Since its inception 25 years ago, the nonprofit has given more than $120 million to support the welfare of Armenians around the world, according to the organization. In Yerevan, the funds have been put toward projects such as a children’s music school and a hospital for orphans with special needs, both of which the politicians visited during the trip. “Visiting a country changes the perception of a place,” Mehranian explained. Some economic points of discussion with Armenian leaders included double taxation and direct flights between New York or L.A. and Yerevan, Mehranian said. Eliminating double taxation would make trade with the West more efficient for business owners who have operations in both the U.S. and Armenia, advocates have argued, as would creating a direct flight service between the two countries. While former President Barack Obama made an effort to improve trade relations with Armenia during his tenure in office, negotiations were slow to move forward. Putting U.S. policymakers face to face with local leaders in Yerevan is the first step toward speeding up the process, Mehranian said. The prospect of forging closer ties between the countries is exciting to Armenians on a local and global scale, she added. “There are two prongs to this trip: One is what it brings to Armenia, and the other is how it revitalizes our community in the U.S. and California,” Mehranian said. “I think this is something that will energize our community.” Airport Pet Adoption A team of high-profile activists with Woodland Hills animal welfare nonprofit Peace 4 Animals hopped on a plane to Austin in late August to rescue pets displaced by Hurricane Harvey – and managed to pull off what is likely among the first kitten adoptions to take place in a Los Angeles International Airport terminal. “We weren’t just going to sit here in California and watch it on the news,” said Peace 4 Animals founder Katie Cleary, a model, actress and philanthropist who started the organization in 2012 alongside her media company World Animals News. “We needed to be on the ground helping.” The operation came together in a matter of days, Cleary said. She enlisted the help of fellow celebrity-activists Maggie Q, Simone Reyes and Russell Simmons. The group worked alongside a local animal shelter to provide emergency care to cats and dogs brought in by rescuers or surrendered by their owners. “A lot of them were sick,” Cleary said. “We saw a lot of ringworm and skin irritation.” Peace 4 Animals has partnered with the Austin Pets Life Foundation to move some of the animals to new homes in Oregon at the end of the month. In the meantime, one of them already has a happy ending: A kitten Cleary carried with her on the plane back to Los Angeles was adopted by a couple sitting next to her. “They were there helping rescue people,” she said. “I took the kitten out and put her on my lap, and they wanted to take her home. I think it was the first adoption ever in an airport.” Staff Reporter Helen Floersh can be reached at (818) 316-3121 or hfloersh@sfvbj.com.

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