SOAR - Richmond Chapter

Richmond joined the SOAR family in May 2017. No one knows when the first Armenians settled in Virginia, but if historic records speak truthfully, there were Armenians, or one Armenian at least, among the first settlers who settled in Jamestown in 1618. He is referred to as, "Martin, the Armenian." If he was not the first Armenian to migrate to the New World, he did have the distinction of being the first naturalized citizen on the American continent.

The next two settlers came in 1653 as silkworm growers, but no settlement of any significance took hold until the late 19th and early 20th centuries. It is known that there was a parish group in Richmond around 1912, and it is recorded that eight members of the Armenian community attended Divine Liturgy services at the historic St. Paul's Episcopal Church on May 16, 1915. Religious life in the Richmond Armenian community has progressed continuously since then. St. James Armenian Apostolic Church, established in 1956, is home to an active culture that many Richmond-area residents know best through an annual food festival.

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Board of Directors:

Elizabeth BandazianElizabeth Bandazian

Elizabet Bandazian was born in Turkey. She called Istanbul, Amsterdam and New York home before making her way to Richmond, Virginia. Elizabet received her education in Holland and always dreamed of working in the states. She moved to New York in 1990 and enjoyed a successful career as an independent contractor for many years. She married Raffi Bandazian and they had two boys. In 2007 they moved the family to Richmond, Virginia so Raffi could assist in the family’s real estate business. In 2015 she made her dream a reality by opening Virginia’s first fast, casual and healthy Armenian restaurant, Coriander. She is active in the community supporting her church, St. James, and various non-profit organizations.

Leiza BouroujianLeiza Bouroujian

Pic and Bio coming soon

Joel MazmanianJoel Mazmanian

Joel Mazmanian is currently content director of Alton Lane, a bespoke menswear startup. Formerly he was a writer at Walt Disney Imagineering and prior to that worked with several startups based in New York City in PR and marketing. Joel started his career working in television news as a reporter and anchor for networks like MTVu and NY1. He holds a master's degree in business and branding from the VCU Brandcenter and a bachelor's degree in broadcast journalism from Emerson College in Boston.

Blake Mirzayan

Blake Mirzayan is a Virginia native currently residing in Richmond, Virginia. He studied communications and business at Virginia Commonwealth University and has since been heavily engaged in Richmond’s professional, nonprofit, and arts communities. In his career at an award-winning communications agency, he supports a vast client portfolio with crisis management, digital marketing, and PR strategies. In 2017, he received PRSA Richmond’s Rising Star Award, a statewide achievement that recognizes an outstanding new member of the public relations profession who has five or fewer years of experience in PR.

Liz OgrenLiz Ogren

Liz Ogren is a native Virginian currently living in the Fan area of Richmond, Virginia. She is the graduate of Trinity Episcopal School and Randolph-Macon College where she majored in Art History. After graduation she briefly worked as the assistant to the registrar of the Agora Excavations in Athens, Greece. She spent the majority of her career in the sign and graphics industry in Richmond, Virginia and most recently has been running the social media and catering department at Coriander Café.

Sona PomfretSona Pomfret

Pic and Bio coming soon