The Homenetmen of New York chapter was officially established in 1977 by the founding members: Seta Bakalian, Vartkes Hagopian, Joseph Nakashian, Hovanes Mardirosian, Ohanes Mashevejian, Garbis Panosian, Sarkis Topalian and Vartkes Vartanian, . However as far back as 1921 a Homenetmen chapter existed in New York. Mamas Ghubeserian, Onnik Kemangian and Hagop Karabekian were the three people responsible for creating the chapter, believed to be the first in USA, in 1921 with the first Chairman being Dr. Bayndrian. The second New York chapter committee members were Dr. Bayndrian, Dikran Hoyian, Kapriel Majarian, Hagop Karabekian, Arshavir Husnian, Mamas Ghubeserian, and Onnik Kemangian.
In 1922 the chapter had a soccer team, which played in the NY Metropolitan league finishing in 3rd place that year. Also in 1922, the first Olympic type games were held in Brooklyn’s Elmer Park with chapters from Boston and New Jersey taking part in these games. Unfortunately over the years the New York chapter folded along with the others.
During the mid-1970s a large migration of Armenians from the Middle East regenerated the need of a Homenetmen chapter in New York. Work started in 1976 to form a new chapter with scouts and members gathering at St. Illuminator’s Cathedral in Manhattan early on. At that time, Garbis Panossian led the scouting program of 30+ members.
On January 29, 1977 a dinner-dance at the Elk’s Club in Elmhurst, NY overflowed with more than 300 guests marked the official opening of the Homenetmen of New York chapter. Later in the year the chapter took up permanent residence at the newly opened Armenian Center in Woodside, NY where their offices still exist today. The first committee members of the chapter were Vartkes Vartanian – Chairman, Nishan Gharibian, Vartkes Hagopian, Antranik Keshishian, Hovanes Mardirossian, Ohanes Mashevejian, Joseph Nakashian, Garbis Panossian, and Sarkis Topalian.
1978 showed a strong growth in the chapter’s membership and activities with a successful soccer team and scouting troop. The soccer team consisting of players between the ages of 16 and 19 started play in the Cosmopolitan Junior Soccer League of New York. Coaches Garo Anastasian and Souren Tchagatsbanian trained the team and they captured the championship in their first year of play. Also in the summer of 1978 5 members taking part in the First Homenetmen World Jamboree held in Kalamos, Greece represented the chapter’s scouting program.
Two years later, in the summer of 1980, the chapter participated again this time with 7 members in the Second Homenetmen World Jamboree held in Paris, France. At this time, Yeghpayer Levon Shamlian was leading the scouting program and was able to obtain an exemption from the Boys Scouts of America allowing the chapter to register its troop as 1918 using 4 digits instead of the standard three. Thru the late eighties NY chapter’s scouting program grew in numbers and was over 30 members strong. Recently (2009) the program is making a comeback once again led by Yegypayer Levon and previou scouts who now are bringing their own kids to the program.
As the chapter grew in membership and strength the 13th Eastern US & Canada Summer Games were awarded to and hosted by New York in 1981. The games were played at Springfield HS and were a great success with many chapters traveling to New York that hot summer to participate. New York’s soccer team captured the senior men’s division championship.
In 1982 the senior basketball team led by Coach Hratch Chalian and team manager Razmig Yessayan participated in the Eastern US & Canada’s winter tournament in Providence along with the chapter’s first men’s volleyball team. Neither team’s performance was successful in capturing a championship medal, but both teams were very successful as the foundations of the chapter’s future successful sports teams.
The success of the chapter’s senior soccer team continued by capturing championships in 1980, 1981, 1985 in the Cosmopolitan Soccer League, and the 1982 and 1984 in the prestigious Homenetmen tournaments. The soccer program has been under the direction of Garo Anastasian from the very beginning. Because of the success of the men’s soccer team, the team participated in the Navasartian games in Los Angeles in 1984. The team again showed their poise by capturing second place during Homenetmen US Western Regional’s games that 4th of July weekend. It was the first time an Eastern US team had taken part in the Western Region’s games.
In 1982 the chapter successfully formed a girls volleyball team and obtained the coaching skills of Koko Injoyan to steer the newest addition to New York’s growing list of sporting teams. The team participated in the US & Canada 14th Winter Games held in Toronto that year and finished in second place, again displaying skills and the ability to reach the finals in their first attempt. As the team continued to train and become as one, the team won the next tournament, this time held in Washington DC. As in the case of the soccer team, the next few years were dominated by New York’s Women’s Volleyball team, with the only team having any chance to beat them being Detroit. Although a healthy rivalry had grown, the team was unstoppable and New York always found a way to defeat Detroit.
Zareh Haroutunian took over the reigns and became the coach in the mid-1980s and continued the team’s success. In 1987 the team traveled to Los Angeles and took part in the Navasartian games and captured second place establishing themselves as a force in Women’s Volleyball. Their success continued through their last championship in 1989 but the team began to disband as many of the girls had married and had moved on.
In 1988 New York hosted the 20th Eastern US & Canada’s Winter Games. The women’s volleyball team captured first place as well as the junior basketball team. New York’s hospitality was unparalleled as they hosted a Disco Dance in the Armenian Center for the athletes and members from other chapters. The party was such a success that many of the 500+ athletes did not want to leave as their chapter representatives made announcements that their buses were returning to the hotel.
Since the late eighties Vicken Shekookian has managed the basketball program and coached some of the teams. The senior men’s basketball team won their first tournament in May of 1990 in Boston. The following year they won the First Eastern US Regional Games tournament also held in Boston; with only six players upsetting the home team in the semi-finals. New York has became a powerhouse in men’s basketball; with EIGHT championships (most in Eastern US)winning in 1991, 1995, 1997, 1998, 2000, 2003, 2005 and 2008 and four finals appearances; capturing second place in 1992, 1996, 1999 and 2007.
In 1999 the 9th Eastern US Regional Games were held in New York. With the membership growing, the New York chapter was able to participate with 6 teams. The chapter set an unofficial Homenetmen Eastern US Regional Games record by having all six teams in the finals. New York teams dominated that event with the veterans, juniors and midgets winning their respective championships while the girl’s junior and men’s basketball teams finished second. Not to be left out of the limelight, the men’s soccer team also took second place.
Since 1977 the chapter has striven to develop an arena to organize and bring together Armenians in athletic competition as well as scouting. Starting small, with 1 soccer team, the club has grown over the years.
We celebrated our 30th anniversary in 2007; Homenetmen of New York is proud to have established itself as the premiere Armenian sports and scouting organization in New York. In 2008 and June 2009 we held “Homenetmen Day” celebration at Plats Deutch Park, an all day event which featured an over 30 soccer tournament, food & picnic, along with music and kids games. As always we are looking to further grow and serve our community.