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New signs point the way to downtown

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New signs hanging over Industrial Drive and Shannon Road at Interstate 30 point the way to “Celebration District.”

The addition of the signs is expected to lead more people to the downtown area and, with them, a further increase in retail growth and sales activity.

“One of the things that we learned from Roger Brooks is that we can increase sales in the downtown area by 25 to 28 percent with way-finding signs,” City Manager Marc Maxwell said. “A lot of people passing through have no idea we've got something going on downtown.”

In meetings to “brand” the city and the downtown area, comments were heard that people traveling through Sulphur Springs on Interstate 30 and those stopping for food and fuel as well as those staying in the hotels were unaware of the downtown area, “Celebration District.

“If we have adequate signage to get them there, we will see benefits,” he said. “So this is the first step. It's unusual, it's not the typical way-finding sign which is exactly what we were looking for. We don't want just another sign that blends in with everything else.”

Hanging the signs from the signal light arms at the two major intersections required more than workers with the right equipment. Approval  had to come from the Texas Department of Transportation.

“We had to jump through a few hoops, but we got step one done,” Maxwell said.

And, the city manager said, the signs are just another step in making the success of “Celebration District” continue. He promised there would be additional things in the near future that will point the way downtown.

Deputies ask for help in catching burglars

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Hopkins County sheriff's investigators say they have cleared two series of recent burglaries but are still working on a third set of crimes. “One group is in custody, one group is fixing to be in custody, but we believe we still have one group out there,” said Chief Sheriff's Investigator Lewis Tatum. The most recent burglary occured at a business on State Highway 11 east this morning. Tatum said it appeared the burglars were familiar with the business the way the break-in took place. “We just want everybody to help us, be vigilant and we will try to get this last bunch wrapped up,” Tatum said. “We were hoping it was all one bunch but it looks like it's going to be three different bunches of folks doing this. Of course, once we get this wrapped up, there will be another one break out somewhere else.” Tatum and Investigator Dennis Findley urged residents, especially in the southern parts of the county, to keep their eyes open and report anything suspicious. “With what we've got going on right now, we need their assistance, we need their help in apprehending these individuals and be vigilant about their surroundings, keep their vehicles locked at all times,” Findley said. “Any information at all would be helpful. Make us aware of it and so we can follow up that lead.” The investigators said that information related to these burglaries, or any other crime, can be called to Crimestoppers at 903-885-2020. Crimestoppers will pay up to $1,000 for information about these burglaries.

Trip for a Princess

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When you wish upon a star, your dreams can come true. For Hopkins County 5-year-old Emery Brown, her wish to go to Disney World has been granted and will be happening this summer because of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. 

At Pizza Inn on Tuesday evening, Emery believed she was going to be meeting up with some family members for pizza. Instead, she got the surprise of a lifetime as two Make-A-Wish foundation representatives were waiting at the restaurant with balloons, cake, presents and a week-long vacation to Disney World. 

Emery was shy at first but quickly warmed up to a party room full of friends and family ready to shower her with love. Finally grinning from ear-to-ear, she traveled around the room to great her guests. 

The Make-A-Wish staff will also provide her with a limousine ride to the airport and a princess gown, tiara and slippers to wear while she is at Disney World. 

“It was Emory’s choice on what she wanted to do and she told us she wanted to go to Disney World. She loves the magic of Disney and we are so excited we are going to be going in June,” said Emery’s father, Mike Brown.

Brown continued to say that Emery enjoys everything princess related and watches “Frozen,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast” and “Snow White.” 

Although Emery is currently in a stable condition, she has been struggling with a severe medical conditions for years. 

“My daughter has Leigh’s Disease and a bunch of other issues I cannot pronounce. Emery’s disease effects her stomach and GI tract. It no longer works properly and she has a feeding tube,” said Brown. “Emery also has a lot of problems with her muscles and she cannot walk properly.”

Leigh's Disease is a rare, inherited neurometabolic disorder that affects the central nervous system. This progressive disorder begins in infants between the ages of three months and two years. Symptoms of Leigh's Disease usually progress rapidly. Children with the disease usually only live to be 6 or 7 years of age although some have survived to their mid-teenage years.

“We have wanted to contact the Make-A-Wish Foundation for several years but Emery has continually been sick in the hospital. She has been well for a while now and my wife contacted them,” said Brown. “Unfortunately with her disease, there is no cure and the life expectancy is not very long. But, we are blessed right now that she is healthy and as much of a normal little girl as possible.”

‘Oscar Night’ is theme of Lights of Life Gala

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There is only one organization in which its sole purpose is to make Hopkins County Memorial Hospital the best medical facility in East Texas. The group is called the Hopkins County Health Care Foundation, and they are gearing up for another fundraising year that will also commemorate its 20-year anniversary. 

To celebrate their accomplishments, the Lights of Life Campaign Committee — the fundraising arm of the foundation — met Tuesday afternoon at Memorial Hospital with several special announcements for the 2015 campaign. The meeting highlights included announcements of the gala theme, fundraising goals and a large donation from business owners who have supported the organization since the beginning. 

“I cannot believe we are about to celebrate our 20-year anniversary for the Lights of Life tree lighting and our 10th year for the LOL Gala,” said Health Care Foundation Director Jackie Thornton. “Our new chairs Gloria (Mitchell), Donna (Rudzik) and Polly (Swatsell) are going to do a wonderful job. I have to say that when these women run the show, we better hold on to our hats. We are so blessed and are all going to make a big difference for the hospital.”

Thorton said one special thing about the new co-chairs was their transition from volunteers to chairwomen.

“We have seen the fruits of their labor for years in their decorations at the gala. Now we are so honored that these three ladies are now chairs,” said Thornton. 

After the initial introductions, the co-chairs announced the 2016 gala theme. Thornton asked for a drumroll and committee members pounded rhythmically on their tables to build anticipation. 

“We really began to look at who we were honoring this year. We figured that this year seamed to be about awards so we wanted to call this year ‘Oscar Night at the Gala,’” said Rudzik. “We really want to celebrate the 10 years of the gala and 20 years of the organization. We already began planning last night.”

Applause resounded around the room at the announcement. Rudzik also confirmed the gala will be once again at the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center with the Texas Unlimited Band playing the night away and Eddie Deen providing the food. The gala is set for Saturday, Jan. 23, 2016, from 6 p.m. to midnight.

Aiming high, the goal for the campaign will be $250,000. The campaign will be raising $120,000 for six CPR devices for EMS ambulances and $50,000 for Leaving a Legacy Endowment Fund.

To help kick off the event the correct way, Arvis and Sheila Tanton, owners of Carriage House Manor and The Cottages, made a huge donation. The announcement was so large, it created a new tier for the sponsorship levels in the LOL campaign.

“We want to donate $1,000 for every year the Light of Life has been an organization,” said Arvis.

The crowd erupted with cheers at the $20,000 donation. 

"I remember this campaign since the beginning, when I put an angel on the first tree. I even remember Paul Worth coming to my office asking me for a donation back then,” said Tanton. “Recently, I was cleaning out my office and found a picture of me giving Richard Goddard $500. We have really come a long way and are so happy to be able to do this.”

Rounding out the meeting, the committee announced several events that will happen throughout the year. The events include:

Sept. 17 — Style Show at First United Methodist Church, 6:30 p.m.

Oct. 3 — 2nd Annual Half Marathon on Celebration Plaza, 8 a.m.

Oct. 3 — 2nd “Sassy Classy Fall Tea” at Sulphur Springs City Hall, 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Nov. 10 — Fly Your Flag bidding, 7 a.m. to 10 a.m.

Nov. 10 — Alliance Bank fundraising lunch, 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Nov. 25 — Raising the “Fly Your Flag” winner on Celebration Plaza.

Jan. 23, 2016 — Lights of Life Gala at Civic Center, 6 p.m. to midnight.

School board looking at $30M preliminary budget

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Sulphur Springs school trustees Monday night got their first look at a preliminary 2015-16 budget during a work session held as part of the regular May board meeting.

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