It’s been 20 years since a pair of Viatorian associates first brought teens to carry out service for the poor and marginalized — right in their own backyards.

Teens assemble new picnic tables.

The Hearts of Hope Youth Ministry draws teens from parishes in Kankakee. Led by Viatorians Associates Ken and Michelle Barrie, some two dozen young people served the needs of residents in Pembroke, IL — located just 25 miles from Kankakee and reported to be one of the poorest townships in the country.

Their projects ran the gamut, from building a 30-foot pavilion and four picnic tables, to building and painting 25 birdhouses, repairing the playground at Sacred Heart Church and visiting with local seniors.

Teens built and painted 25 birdhouses to enhance the local landscape.

Each night featured a youth speaker, small group discussion, prayer service and journal time.

“We survived the heat and rain,” Michelle Barrie says simply, “and worked as a team.”

Over the 20 years, participating in Hearts of Hope has led teens to participate in the Viatorian Youth Congress and generally become more aware of those “accounted of little importance.”

The joy expressed by local residents is contagious.

One of those first participants, David Baron, went on to write a book about his experiences on that service trip and how much the local residents inspired him.

David Baron

Now a practicing attorney in Kankakee, Baron maintains his trip to Pembroke planted the seed for social justice and fighting for the rights of the marginalized. In January, Baron was named Young Citizen of the Year by the Kankakee Daily Journal.