The Organization of Istanbul Armenians was established in 1976 at St. Sarkis Church in East Los Angeles, California and the first General Assembly consisting of 36 members elected the following representatives as their first Board of Directors:
Berc Mihcian – President (deceased), Onnik Balyan (deceased), Aram Amirhanian, Manuk Yilmaz, Yervant Balci (deceased), Avedis Tekolian, Gulbenk Movsesian, Mihran Sasounian and Setrak Chiftchian.
The original purpose of the Organization was to provide help in finding housing, jobs and assist in basic necessities, such as translation services, to newly arrived immigrant Armenians from Istanbul and other parts of Turkey back in the 70’s and 80’s.
Once people were settled and comfortable in Southern California, OIA decided to offer financial aid to deserving Armenian Students to attend Armenian Schools, and to this day, need and merit based Scholarship Assistance remains it’s most important mission.
Many people have opened Endowment Funds within the OIA, mostly to honor their loved ones who departed, to support education, as well as assistance to the needy, sports and cultural activities.
The Ladies Auxiliary was the first sub-committee to operate within OIA and was followed by Getronagan Alumni, Scholarship Committee, Esayan Alumni, Sports Committee, YGIA, Akhtamar Dance Ensemble, Cultural Committee, Mkhitaryan Alumni, Hye Ties, YAN, Kids Club, Dance Club and Entertainment and Social Events Committees.
As the number of Armenians settling in the San Fernando Valley increased, OIA moved its headquarters in 1980 to Van Nuys, and eventually settled in its current property in Winnetka, which was acquired and reconstructed with tremendous support from the entire community.
In 2005 OIA broke ground to construct their new Center and the Grand Opening of the current building was in September of 2010. The OIA was honored to have Catholicos of All Armenians, Karekin II attend both the Ground Breaking and Grand Opening ceremonies.
OIA always has proudly participated in numerous relief funds for Armenian causes and will continue doing so in the future. One major donation was $42K to AGBU to be forwarded for assistance to the 1988 Earthquake victims of Armenia.
In addition to providing scholarships to hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students across the country, some of OIA’s other important achievements have been staging many theatrical plays, organizing the OIA Choir, hosting many Cultural Events and several worldwide reunions of Armenian Schools from Istanbul.
In almost 40 years of it’s existence, OIA has hosted many dignitaries, such as Catholicos’ of all Armenians Vazken I, Karekin I and Karekin II, Patriarch’s of Constantinople, Archbishops Shnork Kalustyan, Karekin Kazanciyan and Mesrob Mutafyan as well as current Deputy Patriarch Aram Atesyan, Armenia’s first President Mr. Levon Ter-Petrosyan, many local political leaders, including LA’s current Mayor Mr. Eric Garcetti, previous Mayor Mr. Richard Riordan, Los Angeles County District Attorney Mr. Gil Garcetti, Senior member of Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, Mr. Michael Antonovich, AGBU President Louis Manoogian-Simone, Editor in Chief of Marmara newspaper of Istanbul, Mr Rober Haddeciyan, Editor in Chief or Jamanak newspaper of Istanbul, Mr Ara Kocunyan, Editor of Paros Magazine, Mrs. Mayda Saris, Poets Arto Cumbusyan, “Zahrad” Zareh Yaldizciyan and Silva Gomikyan, Writer and Researcher Parsegh Tuglaciyan, Late Professor Arman Manukyan and his wife Soprano Alis Manukyan, Composer Sirvart Karamanukyan, Soprano Alin Kutan, Pianist Shahan Arzruni, Director of Armenia Spyurk Scientific Educational Centre, Prof. Suren Tanielyan, Historians Prof. Vahakn Dadrian, Taner Akcam, Writers Migirdich Margosyan, Fethiye Cetin, Ragip Zarakolu, Hasan Cemal, the late Hrant Dink, Rakel Dink and many others.
The Organization of Istanbul Armenians today consists of close to 1000 members and remains true to their founding principles in support of Armenians around the world and further advance social and cultural opportunities within the Armenian community.