YNIA – Young Neighbors In Action St. Katharine Drexel Parish ~ Kaukauna, WI

YNIA – Young Neighbors In Action

St. Katharine Drexel Parish ~ Kaukauna, WI


When I first learned that we were going to a thrift store called the Little Store, I expected just that “A Little Store”. What I encountered when I got there was so, so much more than just that. We were greeted by a man named Harry

The Y.N.I.A. group from KauKanoa WI. with Harry Duchesne Asst. Director of the Urban Missionaries of Our Lady of Hope Worcester MA July 2017

who was ecstatic to see us and almost immediately remembered all eight of our names. We walked through the store to the back that was thankfully air conditioned. There, we learned all of the amazing and beautiful things that go on behind the scenes. Harry introduced us to Walter, who, with his wife, started Urban Missionaries in 1979. Harry took us through the whole building and explained their Christmas program and how many families they help every year, and it was astounding. On my first day there I began chipping paint off an outside wall so we could repaint it. After lunch I got the opportunity to work the front counter of the store with Mariellis. Every person that walked in, she knew and they were excited to see her. It was then that I really began seeing all of the amazing things that the people that are a part of Urban Missionaries do. People can come in and get a bag of food for free if they really need it to get by. (When I would tell them that I would grab their bag, people would laugh or make comments because I am from Wisconsin and apparently have a very heavy accent.) Something that really astonished me while I was there was how thankful everyone was that walked in to the Little Store. They saw that we were working and trying to make improvements in how the store looked and they thanked us, and a few even talked with me for a while and told me that they would keep me in their prayers. Priscilla, who works in the office of the building, was always going around and taking pictures of us, making sure we were doing well, and made it her mission to remember our names so she could call us all out to dance with her during our culture night. During lunch, Walter and his wife Kathy explained all that they do for immigrants and how much they help them. The best thing about everything that Urban Missionaries does is that they do everything with the people in mind. They do everything they can to ensure that the people who walk in seeking their help maintain their dignity, get the help they need, and can get back on their feet at the same time. When I learned where I was going to be working after an eighteen hour car ride,

Tis her self, Mikenna Burchinger Y.N.I.A. KauKauona WI 2017, paint that wall!

I never expected the people Urban Missionaries to affect me and touch my heart as much as they did, and I will be forever thankful that I got the opportunity to meet them.

By Mikenna Buchinger

Y.N.I.A. Wisconsin July 2017


I really can’t remember just how many years it’s been since we first started hosting Young Neighbors in Action groups at the Little Store. It’s about 15 years. During that time Kathy and I have been constantly surprised and well pleased with the amount and quality of the work these young men and women accomplish.


For those of you who may not have heard about Young Neighbors in Action let me tell you a little bit about their style. Young men and women, usually high school sophomores from a Catholic Church and up, sign up to spend 6 to 10 days during their summer vacation travelling to another city working from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. with other Catholic kids. They are sent to different hosting locations, some close to home and others very far from home.  In our experience we have had groups from Wisconsin, New Hampshire, and Northborough, MA to name a few.


We usually have groups of 10 or less. We line up the work for them before they arrive. The work consists painting, washing, moving, packing, unpacking, smashing and bashing, loading dumpsters, empting truck, painting fences, trimming brush, and power washing things, just to name a few.


Preparing the front wall for painting.

One of this year’s groups was from Kaukauna, WI. The group from KauKauna arrived July 10, 2017 and left us on Friday July, 14, 2017. The group consisted of 2 leaders and 8 boys and girls.Their work included scraping and sanding the front outside wall of the store, taking down the wall between the LittleStore and the Just New! Store, relocating the counter in the store, and cutting back the brush. They accomplished everything except the cutting back of the brush, but they did do some smash and bash!


The new counter put together by the Y.N.I.A.


For our part we introduce them to the Urban Missionaries of Our Lady of Hope, its mission, work and people as well as the many different culturally diverse customers of the LittleStore. We usually do this over lunch and at the wrap up at the end of the work day. We try to stimulate a dialogue with them using questions like, “What did you see today or what did you hear today?” The questions come slowly on the first and second day, but by Friday the responses to the questions are enthusiastic. And as a result of this dialogue we both learn from each other and come to understand our different lives in light of the Gospel.


On Fridays we work until 1:00 p.m. and then clean up for our good-bye party. We have sandwiches, drinks, and cookies. And I get to ask them two questions, one, “What did you do this week that you never thought you would ever do?” And two, “What did you see you have never seen before?”  It gets pretty emotional. Their answers are usually well thought out and just pop out of their mouths.


The groups have a ritual of leaving behind a memento of their visit. This year two of them were doing some smash and bash when they came across a broken crucifix lying on the pile of trash to be thrown out. They asked, “Can we keep this?” “Ok,” I said, “but I don’t want to here from your parents about you taking rubbish home.” We all laughed. But during the party one of them reached into his backpack and took a  colorfully decorated crucifix that was signed by each of the team and labeled Y.N.I.A Kaukauna, WI, 2017. As I accepted their gift I could feel their eye on me just waiting for our reaction. Kathy and I both said at the same time, “It is beautiful!” And they all clapped and were smiling from ear to ear!


Everyone is flying because of the week we just experienced with each other, only with tears in their eyes because it is time to say good-bye. So with hugs and promises to stay in touch they depart and Kathy and I just stand there in awe of what the Lord had done of us once again.