Youths help the homeless

Jack and Miles Hurley purchase food and supplies for Teen Volunteers in Action. (courtesy of Jennifer Torio)

Youths help the homeless

By Nick Ng

COVID-19 could not prevent two Scripps Ranch youths from helping San Diego’s homeless. Jack Hurley, 16, and Miles Hurley, 12, continue to collect donations to purchase food and supplies with Teen Volunteers in Action (TVIA), a community service program for young men from grades seven to 10. 

TVIA has six chapters that serve throughout San Diego County where it sends volunteers to various events to help the homeless and the poor. 

“There are five events a year pre-COVID, and you sign up for it,” said Jack, who has been volunteering for more than two years. “Before COVID, I would go to these events and hand out food and have conversations with the homeless to get to know who they are.”

Miles started with TVIA this year and has not been able to attend any regular events yet since none are being held during the COVID pandemic.

“I just want to help people in need,” Miles said. “It’s fun to do this and I help out the community.”

Jack initially volunteered to earn college credits. However, when he started to participate in the events more often, he “really got to know” some of the people he was helping. He recalls the time he volunteered at the Mary and Gary West Senior Center in downtown San Diego.

“I remember helping this lady with Bingo. She was very happy to have me help her with it, and it makes me very happy,” Jack said.

Another event that Jack volunteered for was Burrito Boyz, a nonprofit organization that has been providing meals to the homeless in San Diego for nearly 10 years.

“The people who run it are very involved,” he said. “They are from Long Island Mike’s in Clairemont Mesa and made 700 burritos for the homeless in downtown. In other events, they just tell you what to do. Here, they work with you.”

Currently, instead of working at these events, Jack and Miles text friends to ask for donations to buy food and supplies. Once they have purchased them, they drop them off at one of several TVIA food locations every weekend.

“With COVID, everything is contactless,” said Jennifer Torio, mother of Jack and Miles. “Every weekend, volunteers bring different foods to me, like pasta, snack bars and oatmeal, so I can drop them off. We get hundreds of cans or snack bars from these collections.”

She first got involved with TVIA because her colleagues in the mental health profession recommended it to her.

“I was part of the Chapter Five’s board of TVIA, vice president of programs,” Torio said. “I coordinated speakers to come in and talk to the parents. They would talk about teen brain health, including the impact of gaming, lack of sleep and empathy in times of high technology.”

Torio said that they are currently volunteering for a project for Community Resource Center, a non-profit organization that helps domestic violence victims, helping deliver donations to the shelters.

Meanwhile, Jack and Miles encourage other teens and families in Scripps Ranch to volunteer.

“College credits might encourage more to sign up, but once they do it, they will appreciate the work they’re doing,” Jack said. 

“We don’t get to go out much,” Miles said. “When we’re helping the community, I want others to help, too.”

TVIA is currently not accepting new volunteers, however, parents and teens who are interested can apply in March 2021. The organization only accepts volunteers who are referred by someone in the program. Visit tvia.org for more information.

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