Glendale YMCA officials are hosting a blood drive in commemoration of the Armenian genocide. Organizers say it's a way to bring the community together while continuing a tradition of saving lives.

The blood drive will be from 1 to 7 p.m. Thursday at the Glendale YMCA's Youth Fitness Center, 130 N. Louise St. Walk-ins are welcome, but for appointments, call (818) 240-4130, ext. 34 or visit www.redcrossblood.org and enter sponsor code ANCGlendale. To give blood, one must be at least 16 years old and weigh 110 pounds. A valid identification card is required.

The YMCA is conducting the drive in partnership with the Armenian National Committee of Glendale, the American Red Cross, the Armenian Youth Federation's Roupen Chapter, the city of Glendale and Homenetmen Glendale Ararat Chapter, said Doug Nies, Glendale native and chairman of the YMCA board of directors.

Known as the first genocide of the 20th century, the Armenian genocide resulted in the mass murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Turks, beginning in 1915. The 97th commemoration of the event was marked on April 24, 2012.

The YMCA's support of the Armenians' plight started with Asa Jennings in 1922, Nies said.

“Asa Jennings was a YMCA employee who in 11 days saved 350,000 Greek and Armenian lives,” he said. “He was in the right place at the right time, with the right value system, to save lives. The following year he saved 1.25 million Greek and Armenian refugees. It is an amazing story that gets lost in the pages of history. It is documented but often overlooked.”

Jennings was awarded the highest military decoration of Greece, the Medal of Military Merit, and the highest civilian decoration, the Golden Cross of St. Xavier.

The YMCA is conducting the blood drive as part of this year's commemoration because there is a large constituency of Armenians in Glendale, Nies said.

“We want to be sensitive to their needs and concerns and create a better understanding of their culture and why they are passionate and concerned about the genocide,” he said.

The most integral role of the YMCA in Glendale is to be a harmonizing entity of the community, said George Saikali, the chief executive officer of the YMCA, who lives in Burbank. The goal, he said, is to move from diversity to celebrating our differences.

Glendale YMCA members are a reflection of the community, and friendships are forming between all ethnicities and walks of life, he said.

“I personally believe, and the board believes, that this is a good strategic goal for us in the next few years, to create a better understanding between different ethnicities,” he said. “We have the location. We need to start making this community one, regardless of differences.”

It is also a symbolic gesture, Saikali said, because through blood drives, many lives continue to be saved.

Fashion luncheon supports charities

The Foothill Civitan Club of Burbank will host its 30th annual luncheon and fashion show, “A Black & White Affair,” on May 12 in the Starlight Ballroom at the Castaway Restaurant in Burbank. Fashions will be provided by White House-Black Market and Sy Devore.

The special guest is movie and television actor Jack McGee. Musical entertainment will be by Robin Grosmark.

The Foothill Civitan Club has underwritten the cost of three Canine Companions for Independence assistance dogs at a cost of $10,000 per dog. Proceeds from this year's event support projects like this and others, including scholarships at local high schools, Families of Spinal Muscular Atrophy, Salvation Army programs, and the Hands Across the Battlefield project, in which items and phone cards are sent to deployed troops.

Other projects include providing camperships through Burbank Park, Recreation and Community Services, sponsoring three families in the Burbank Coordinating Council's Christmas Basket Program, and sponsorship of the annual Girls Ponytail Softball Jamboree, which includes a parade, hot dog lunch and trophies. The club also offers continuing support of BCR A Place to Grow, including sponsorship of its holiday dance, support of Tierra Del Sol, and support of the Burbank Police Department's K-9 Unit.

The fashion show luncheon will offer a silent auction, a cash opportunity drawing and door prizes. For reservations, or for more information about the club, call Karen Hubbard at (818) 434-6754. Membership is open to men and women.

JOYCE RUDOLPH can be reached at rudolphjoyce10@gmail.com.