Teen Volunteers in Action starting new chapter

Teen Volunteers in Action, a North County group that gets teenage boys and their parents involved in community service activities, is looking for a few good young men to help build a new chapter of its organization.

“It’s a wonderful opportunity for us to expand,” said Anne Gruzdowich, TVIA president. “There is a great need and a great interest in volunteerism in this area.”

Teen Volunteers in Action was founded 10 years ago by a group of women from Rancho Santa Fe, Del Mar and Carmel Valley. Their daughters were all involved in National Charity League, an organization that pairs moms and daughters in community service activities. They wanted to start a similar group for their sons.

Unlike National Charity League though, TVIA includes both fathers and mothers in its community service activities.

When the chapter first started, TVIA consisted of 30 boys total in grades seven through 12.

The founding chapter has now grown to include 30 boys in each grade level — there is such a demand that there has been a waiting list for the past few years.

To allow the organization to accommodate more boys, Carmel Valley resident Janet Handzell is starting the new chapter.

The TVIA “year” starts in the fall and the boys have until May 31 to participate in five philanthropic events.

Events include a variety of service activities: trail restoration at the San Elijo Lagoon; serving the homeless meals at St. Vincent de Paul; playing bingo with seniors and volunteering with Miracle League by helping children with disabilities play baseball at San Dieguito Park.

Parents work alongside the teens, creating quality time but also encouraging them to be community leaders, Gruzdowich said.

“It has become a great passion of mine; it really resonates with me,” said Gruzdowich, whose son is now a junior at Cathedral Catholic High School, but has been a member of TVIA since the seventh grade.

Recently the boys participated in Operation Facelift, repairing a home in Azalea Park. The work was hands-on: painting the home and planting a garden for the elderly couple who live there.

“What really makes us stand apart is our direct service,” said Star Lerach, vice president of philanthropy at a recent luncheon. "(Our members) interact one on one with needy people in our community. They learn how fragile our communities are, that it really takes all of us to reach out, rebuild and lend a helping hand.”

Lerach said they are really encouraging their sons to understand the “why” in philanthropy — why it exists and how they can help be a part of the solution.

TVIA members participated in a particularly special event this year with the Karen refugees, teenagers from Myanmar (Burma) who have settled in San Diego. The boys hosted a barbecue and played soccer with the refugees to help them make American friends. They also organized a bowling trip for the teenagers, some of whom had never been bowling or in a car outside their neighborhood.

“These are things maybe our boys take for granted that are truly something special for someone else,” Gruzdowich said.

For more information on how to become a member, visit