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Personal view of Armenia

Tom Vartabedian, who retired in January after 40 years as a writer and photographer with the Haverhill Gazette, is as busy as ever.

The Haverhill resident has created a presentation of photographs he took during a trip to Armenia last year, when he and his wife visited 12 villages and historic sites. And he is working on a pictorial book celebrating the joys of the simple village life of the Armenian people.

He writes a column for the Armenian Weekly, a publication headquartered in Watertown. And he has developed an eight-week course on Armenian history and culture, which he will teach at Northern Essex Community College in Haverhill in the fall.

Vartabedian presents a slide lecture on the history and culture of his ancestral country today from 2 to 3 p.m. in the Technology Center on the Northern Essex campus.

The event is part of the college's Life Long Learning program, geared for ages 50 and older but open to anyone interested. Admission is $1.

Call 978-556-3825 or visit

PERFORMING SERVICE FOR STUDENTS: North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly and Citizens Bank are working to make sure the state's neediest students have the basic tools they need -- such as notebooks, pens, and pencils -- to succeed in school.

As part of the bank's "Tools for Schools" program, the theater is collecting academic supplies during its run of "Disney's High School Musical," through July 29. Bins are set up in the lobby to collect the items, which Citizens Bank will distribute.

"We are excited to partner with the theater on our 'Tools for Schools,' program, which will enable low-income children throughout the state to return to school in September with the supplies they need to do well in their classes," said Robert E. Smyth, CEO of Citizens Bank.

For more on the program, call 617-994-7586.

FOR BABIES AND MOMS: Mothers, babies, and supporters gathered recently to celebrate the opening of the Melrose-Wakefield Hospital Baby Café at the Hope Alliance Church in Melrose.

Funded by the March of Dimes and the Baby Café Charitable Trust, which is based in the United Kingdom, the Baby Café is a free service offered to pregnant women and new moms who are breast-feeding their infants.

It aims to provide a friendly and comfortable environment for learning about the health and wellness benefits of breast-feeding. Mothers can share information and socialize. And there is one-on-one help available from trained health professionals. Babies can also be weighed, organizers said.

For more information, call the hospital's breast-feeding support center at 781-979-6455.

DENTAL WORK: When Sanford "Sandy" Sherman retired from the Piscataqua Savings Bank in Portsmouth, N.H., after 47 years, the company's parting gift for its longtime leader was a no-brainer.

"We thought the best tribute to him would be to continue helping one of the many Seacoast institutions where he has made a difference," said the bank's president and CEO, Jay Gibson.

So, Piscataqua Savings contributed $15,000 to support the Families First Dental Center, one of the local groups of which Sherman has been a longtime supporter.

President of the bank for 20 years, Sherman was instrumental in the bank's role as a founding donor of the Families First center in 2003, and a supporter of two subsequent grants.

The center serves Families First Health and Support Center patients, clients of AIDS Response Seacoast and other agencies, and local children with Health Kids Gold coverage. Most dental center patients are from low-income households or have no insurance.

The Families First organization also provides affordable primary and prenatal care, parenting and family programs, and mobile healthcare for the homeless.

For more details about the health center, call 603-422-8208 or visit

WINNING RECIPE: JR's Route 22 restaurant in Essex took top honors in the annual New Fish Festival, sponsored by the Cape Ann Chamber of Commerce.

Almost 200 votes were cast by diners who sampled 12 entrees prepared by local chefs during the June 28 gala in Gloucester.

JR's won for its cod cheeks sautéed in lemon white wine butter.

Second place went to Lobsta Land in Gloucester for its Jamaican jerk-grilled barramundi, with curry-coconut rice and mango coulis. Third place was won by Casatova Fine Foods & Catering of Danvers for its filet de sole bourre et cuit.

The festival, held at the Gloucester House restaurant, highlights the use of new and underutilized species of fish in cooking.

WHO'S WHAT WHERE: Kathy Guy, chairwoman of the foreign language program at the Governor's Academy in the Byfield section of Newbury, has received a 2007 Teacher Recognition Award from the Anti-Defamation League. The award, presented at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., honors educators who have implemented a curriculum or program that fosters intergroup understanding and an appreciation of people's differences. Guy, of Byfield, has been coordinator of the private school's Anti-Defamation League Peer Training Program for seven years . . . Jessie Avendanha of Lynn was recently named Employee of the Month at Brooksby Village in Peabody. He is a certified nursing assistant at Renaissance Gardens, the assisted living and healthcare facility at Brooksby . . . Melody Oleson, a student at Marblehead High School, won first place in Debra Crosby's "Talent Quest" show on Salem Access TV. Oleson, who appeared in "Fame" at the North Shore Music Theatre in Beverly, performs with A Dancer's Dream in Marblehead. "Talent Quest," which is carried on 18 cable stations, features monthly competitions.

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