People Who Make a Difference | Brenda Thornhill | Longview
Some volunteers enjoy making a difference in their community. Others enjoy the pride they feel when meeting a specific need. However, for the four-legged team members at Silver Paws, Inc., volunteering provides an opportunity for extra treats and belly rubs.
Silver Paws, Inc., provides registered therapy teams, which pair a lovable fur baby with their human handler, to serve people of all ages with animal-assisted activity programs across the East Texas area.
Among their many services, Silver Paws therapy teams work with local hospitals and rehabilitation centers to provide assistance for physical, occupational, and speech therapists. They also partner with schools to aid in a reading program that lets young readers practice their skills with a “nonjudgmental” reading partner, as well as help decrease anxiety in children and adults. Therapy animals also promote increased activity, conversation, and emotional connections for hospice patients and those in assisted-living facilities.
When Brenda Thornhill learned about Silver Paws, she instantly knew the program would be perfect for her labradoodle, Bart.
“I had wanted to do therapy work with Bart for several years,” Mrs. Thornhill said. “Since joining Silver Paws, my days are filled with love and joy working in the community with many different types of people and organizations. I hope those I encounter receive as much happiness and satisfaction from me as I receive from them. I highly recommend the organization to anyone who loves animals, whether you want to be a team or a volunteer. It is so rewarding.”
In addition to her work with Silver Paws, Mrs. Thornhill is an active volunteer with the Heartisans Marketplace, a nonprofit boutique that provides job skills training for women in the Longview community. She is also the vice president of the Zonta Club of Greater East Texas, a children’s group leader for Bible Study Fellowship, and a volunteer with Longview Methodist Church.
When asked about her philosophy on volunteering, Mrs. Thornhill quoted Charles Dickens, who said, “Our spirit needs to walk amongst our fellow man.”
“I have a need to give my time and skills for the benefit of others,” Mrs. Thornhill said. “Selfishly, that allows me to grow intellectually, emotionally, and spiritually.”
Born in Kilgore, Texas, Mrs Thornhill earned her master’s degree in home economics from Stephen F. Austin State University and her certification in early childhood development from The University of Texas at Tyler. Mrs. Thornhill retired from Kilgore College after 35 years of service as the director of international programs.
Mrs. Thornhill and her husband, Richard, have been married for 42 years. While the couple has children of their own, they are blessed to have many international college students whom they consider family.
“They became like children to us. Their children even call us grandma and grandpa,” Mrs. Thornhill said.
The Thornhills have lived in Longview since their marriage in 1977 and love calling the city home.
“I have been blessed to travel the world, but always want to come home to Longview,” Mrs. Thornhill said. “The beauty of the seasons, the size, and the friendliness of the people make this my home.”
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