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Local woman looking for silver lining in midst of life-altering accidents

Life can be rough, but one woman in Sulphur Springs has had a year that has left her with little hope for the future. After a series of life-changing events, Taz McWilliams has been left paralyzed and without a vehicle while taking care of two handicapped children and is doing everything she can to pay the bills. Emotionally brought to tears over what has happened, McWilliams is not sure every story has a silver lining. 

"There are times in your life where you feel likes it’s the last straw," said McWilliams. "After so much, I don't even know what to believe in anymore." 

McWilliams worked for years as a truck driver and spent her free time volunteering for non-profit organizations around Hopkins County like Kiwanis Club.  

"I love to work with children and individuals with special needs," said McWilliams. “If someone needed a volunteer, I wanted to help.”

Several years ago, she met special needs adult siblings Tonya and Don Handorf. Both were middle-aged but needed constant care, and McWilliams wanted to help them live the best life they could. Williams adopted Tonya and began going through the same process for Don. 

“I found out Tonya was being abused, so I went to a lawyer and got her out of that home. I then found out about Don and realized he needed just as much help. Adoption is a responsibility for a lifetime, but they are my children now,” McWilliams said.

As McWilliams bonded with her new family, tragedy stuck. 

“I remember taking Tonya out to eat at Furr's Cafeteria with some of our friends. I was helping Tonya off the curb with her walker, as we were leaving, and an 81 year-old-woman ran me over with her car,” said McWilliams. “I remember reacting and shoving Tonya as hard as I could out of the way before getting hit by the car. My before getting hit by the car. My friends grabbed Tonya, but I was completely ran over.”

McWilliams woke up in the hospital with no feeling in her legs. She had been paralyzed from the waist down and was outfitted with a colostomy bag. 

“I have had several lawyers try to take the case but have turned me down. Now my friends are helping me work through everything,” she said. “I am still trying to adopt Don, but it is so much harder now to create a stable home environment with my disabilities."

McWilliams had to quit her job and go on supplemental security income. She now makes half of what she used to make and still has to take care of Don and Tonya. Medicaid provides a home health nurse who comes from noon to 4 p.m. weekdays. McWilliams is unable to cook and stuggles with everyday tasks, like reaching into cabinets, without severe pain.

While still emotionally dealing with her disability, her situation became much more difficult last Wednesday, when a tree crashed down on her minivan, totaling the vehicle.

"We have been contacting our landlord for several months. We told him a tree in our front yard was pulling tighter against our power lines and some of the roots were coming up. We began trying to park farther back in our driveway but he came out last week and told us the tree looked just fine," said McWilliams. “After the accident, the landlord told me that if he took seriously every time someone complained about a tree on a property, there would not be any trees left.”

"Thank God we had insurance on the van, but it looks likes my insurance company is not going to give me enough money to buy what I had," said McWilliams. 

Currently stranded at home, McWilliams hopes there are no more difficulties looming around the corner. 

"It feels like every step I take forward, there is something that blocks me and slaps me in the face," said McWilliams. "It is tough to keep it together sometimes and make sure I am calm around my kids. I have to wear a mask that everything is OK, but it’s not."   

McWilliams and her family have a uncertain future, but her insurance company is scheduled to look at the vehicle next week. 

E.L. James delights 500 adoring fans

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For fans of E.L. James and the “Fifty Shades of Grey,” the much-anticipated day arrived Saturday morning.

Hundreds of fans lined Main Street in front of The Bookworm Box to catch a glimpse of the author of the worldwide best-selling book series who traveled from West London to Sulphur Springs for a highly-anticipated book signing. 

Five-hundred lucky fans were able to purchase tickets to meet James and get her to sign a copy of her new book “Grey.”

The doors opened at 10:30 a.m. for the 11 a.m. event, which was coordinated by local author Colleen Hoover, owner of the Bookworm Box. Fans from all over the world poured through the doors in a zig-zag line. As James walked out to speak to her adoring fans, cheers echoed through the long room. 

“I just want to say, ‘Wow!’ Thank you so much for coming. I am so proud to be the first author here (at the Bookworm Box). Colleen is a huge part of my life. She is so awesome for doing this and I am honored to be here. I hope you all enjoy the book,” said James. “Sulphur Springs is such a beatiful place. It’s gorgeous with real Americana. I love it.” 

Her new book, “Grey,” tells the trilogy of “Fifty Shades of Grey” from the protagonist Christian Grey’s point of view. The book was released yesterday worldwide and James choose Sulphur Springs to debut her new book before she heads to New York later Saturday. 

James proceeded to take a group selfie with all of her fans before the book signing began. 

Prior to the book signing, the News-Telegram took to the street and asked some of the die-hard fans in line their thoughts on the erotic romance novel in which 125 million copies of the trilogy have been sold and the film version hasgrossed more than $560 million worldwide. 

"As soon as I found out about the book signing I bought a ticket, even though I did not know if I could make it,” said Liis McKinstry. “I live in Canada and flew out last light to get here this morning. We left out of Dallas at 5 a.m. this morning.”

McKinstry said that she has read the series more that 30 times and has watched the film numerous times. 

“Everyone always asks me, ‘Why is this series so special?’ This book is like a gateway drug to the genre. It lead to me discovering so many other authors,” said McKinstry. “The other great thing about the series is that most women aren’t married to billionaires and we enjoy living vicariously through these characters. In the end, it is a really great love story.”

Only 500 tickets for the book signing were allowed and were announced via social media. After several minutes, the event was sold out. One of the other lucky individuals who received a ticket was Kathryn Perez.

“I think the reason this book is so popular is it stems from E.L. James, who is a great person. I have met her at a convention in Dallas and she is genuinely so much different that what people would perceive her to be. She is so laid back, personable and really authentic,” said Perez. “I know she is very charitable and when she found out that Colleen Hoover started the Bookworm Box, it was not a second thought in her mind to have a book signing. This is a huge deal for East Texas.”

Perez continued to say she loved the books because they went places where other books had not dared go. 

“E.L. says things that other authors were too worried what other people would say about them. It paved the way for women not to be ashamed of their sexuality. Woman should not be ashamed to say what they want and what they like in a book. Men have been able to talk about sex for years, but they are not looked at poorly,” said Perez. “I think this book has empowered women sexually. I know this book has improved marriages and has been a life-changing piece of literature for millions of people.”

 

Juneteenth event to celebrate freedom, community

Its time to celebrate freedom and human rights in Hopkins County this weekend. Although Independence Day is still two weeks away, this week bolsters another historic day that changed the lives of every African American in Texas.  

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Police asking for help locating murder suspect

Sulphur Springs police investigators are asking for help from the public in locating murder suspect Tilton Joshua Isaiah Mapps, who is wanted in connection with the June 8 shooting death of Jonathan Young at Pacific Park.

Police Det. David Gilmore described Mapps as being a black male, 20 years of age, 5 feet, 9 inches tall and weighing 130 to 140 pounds.

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Pick up a bit of Hopkins County history at collectibles sale

After a long work week, there is no greater feeling than busting open the wallet for an extended shopping spree. On Friday and Saturday, Hopkins County Heritage Park will be hosting an arts, crafts and collectibles show and sales to benefit the Hopkins County Historical Society. 

“We are going to have gorgeous handmade quilts, jewelry, framed art, candles, plants, wood crafts and a variety of handmade items that would make the perfect gift, especially since Father’s Day is just around the corner,” said Hopkins County Historical Society member Carlie Penson. “One piece of history we will be selling are slates from the 1895 Hopkins County Courthouse. We have cleaned the slate and created wonderful cheese boards, cutting boards, chalk boards and other souvenirs people can put in their homes. It is like taking home a piece of history.”

The event began after severe weather rained out Heritage Park’s annual Spring Festival. The board gathered and decided on an arts and crafts sale that would hopefully be a springboard to an annual sale. This event would help cover costs of storm damage, especially cutting up and hauling off all the downed trees in the park. 

So far, the decision is paying off — two dozen vendors have signed up to participate this weekend. Penson said she wants the sale to be as big as possible and additional vendor spots are still available. Interested parties can contact any member of the Historical Society or contact Heritage Park.

“We are also going to have food vendors, ice cold lemonade and have snow cones for purchase,” said Penson. “This is a way to support the historical society and the history of our city. We want to support Heritage Park because there is some additional roofing that needs to be done and other ongoing upkeep work.”

Most the proceeds from several of the vendors’ booths will be going directly to the Historical Society although any vendor can sign up to participate in the event. 

Anyone who has questions about the show or who wants to donate to the historical society or to sign up as a vendor, can contact Joyce Bateman at 903-945-3308 or This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

The event will begin Friday, June 19, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and continue Saturday June 20, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Heritage Park is located at 416 North Jackson St. 

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