For Brenda Thornhill, volunteering at Heartisans Marketplace in Longview is truly a labor of love.

Thornhill, who has resided in Longview for 43 years, serves in the Embroidery Studio at Heartisans Marketplace with a few other women.

In the studio, Thornhill embroiders everything from baby bibs and onesies to blankets, aprons and purses. The items are then sold in Heartisans' store, which benefits the overall organization.

Heartisans Marketplace is a nonprofit organization that strives to provide customized job readiness to women in the community. Heartisans offers a unique gift shop filled with items made by volunteers, such as Thornhill. Profits from the sale of products along with community donations allow Heartisans to provide training and employment opportunities to women in its program.

Thornhill first began volunteering at Heartisans five years ago after learning about the organization while she was volunteering at First United Methodist Church of Longview.

“I was volunteering at First United Methodist Church in the office and everybody who came in said, ‘Have you been to Heartisans this week?’ I wondered, what is this Heartisans?” Thornhill recalled. “Finally, one day, I found out where it was and went down there.”

Upon stepping into the doors of Heartisans former location in downtown Longview, Thornhill immediately fell in love. Today, Heartisans is located on Gilmer Road in the Spring Hill area.

When Thornhill first came to Heartisans, the organization needed someone to help photograph items for the website. Then, over a volunteer luncheon at Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center, Thornhill had a conversation with Donna Crouch.

“She was just talking to us about the different volunteer opportunities and she said, ‘I desperately need some help in the embroidery studio.’ When she found out I was a home ec major, she said, ‘Oh you would be perfect.’ I said I would come in and try. I had never worked with a machine,” Thornhill recalled. “I fell in love with her – she was such a precious person – and with the machine.”

A retired teacher, Thornhill has always had a servant’s heart. Being surrounded by fellow like-minded women, especially Heartisans founder Julee Rachels, made Thornhill want to keep returning.

“Once you work with Julee, she just draws you in,” she said. “She is the finest Christian woman I have ever met. She lives her faith to the fullest. She makes you want to be a better person. I’m about 20 years older and I told her one day that I aspire to be you when I grow up.”

To learn more about Heartisans Marketplace and its volunteer opportunities, visit

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Christina Cavazos is the News-Journal's senior reporter. A Sherman, Texas native, she earned a journalism degree from Texas Christian University. She covers a variety of issues in Longview and the greater East Texas area.