Trisha Horner: Following Your Passion

Trisha Horner grew up in Northern Minnesota in a large family. After graduating high school, Horner went on to attend design school, tailoring school, and then tech school for biomedical engineering. She started her career in New York, designing women’s lingerie for five years. After that, Horner worked in a hospital for biomedical engineering for 15 years. After having two children, Horner decided that fibers were her true passion, so she returned to them.

In 1993, Horner and seven other individuals founded Fibers of Love, which seeks to sew for the community, county, country, and the world. Horner’s first project was sewing hospital burial gowns for infants who’d died at birth. After that, both the organization’s volunteer list and project work expanded.

“It just grew,” said Horner. “And as we continue to make improvements, it will continue to grow.”

The organization originally utilized space from Calvary Methodist Church, but due to its expansion over the years, has had to relocate first to Horner’s home, then Hancock Fabrics, and most recently to the former office of Don Smith Printing. As of now, Horner has 48 women on her volunteer list, with 20-30 of them showing up every Monday to work.

Everything Fibers of Love uses is donated, from the fabrics to the sewing machines, to the needles and the thread.

“When I put our needs out there, I have people who are willing to step up to the plate and donate,” said Horner.

And with these donations, Fibers of Love is able to make an impact both locally, and globally. Current projects include things like phone caddies for the local nursing homes, grocery bags for Home Sweet Home Ministries and Western Avenue Community Center, and backpacks for children all over the world.

“We recently had one woman go on a mission’s trip to a boy’s orphanage in Montana,” said Horner. “She brought backpacks we’d sewn for the boys.”

And, Horner says this form of distribution is what works best for the thriving organization.

“I wouldn’t have enough time to deliver all the products and work here,” said Horner. “So each woman is in charge of a few agencies where we deliver, and when the products are done the women deliver them themselves.”

Fibers of Love teamed up with YWCA McLean County’s RSVP program 17 years ago. Horner attended church with RSVP’s then director, Tarry Plattner. Plattner invited Fibers of Love to work with RSVP as one of the local non-profit organizations RSVP recruits retired volunteers for.

These days, about half the volunteers come from RSVP and the other half learn about Fibers of Love through word of mouth.

“Women go to church, or water aerobics class, or any number of places and they ask their friends if they’d be interested in this type of work,” said Horner. “And then the women come and go as they please. Some use it as a social gathering; others float in and out as different life events happen for them. Sometimes this work can even be very therapeutic.”

In April 2015, Horner was awarded the Governor’s Volunteer Service Award for her work with Fibers of Love. She was honored at a celebration at the Governor’s Mansion. The ceremony recognized volunteers as a way to highlight the importance of volunteerism and community service in Illinois.