For the 10th year, Viatorian Associates Ken and Michelle Barrie led teens from the Bourbonnais/Kankakee region to help residents of one of the poorest areas in the country: Pembroke Township._DSC0108

For an entire week, the high school and college aged students worked on projects aimed at improving the lives of Pembroke’s residents. They ranged from building a new deck and shed at one family’s home, to painting a bus for an area children’s camp, to doing general yardwork and maintenance on the grounds of Sacred Heart Church, where they gather.

_DSC0092“It’s such a powerful experience,” said Avery Jones, 16, of Bradley. “The people here have so little, but they have such big hearts. They’re so appreciative for everything we do.”

Her friend, Julia Bollwitt, agrees: “It’s almost refreshing to come here.”

The Barries first took high school students to Pembroke back in 1999 on a service trip they called Hearts of Hope Mission. The name stuck and while they have tried to serve in other areas, their teens always want to return to the people of Pembroke, living less than 15 miles from their own backyards.

“It’s holy ground,” Michelle says. “The kids have a heart for this place — and its people.”