ACPA raises money with paintball


ACPA press release

Athens Christian Preparatory Academy recently completed its annual paintball fundraiser.

ACPA faculty member Brian West, who organized the event, said, “We are very grateful to the businesses who helped us sponsor the event this year. Scuba Steve’s of Tyler donated all the compressed air tanks and inspections this year, and Wes Chaney of Athens helped with gear. Beverly Duke, Marsi and Morgan Jones, Kim Hardin, and Melissa Bush donated paint for the players.”

Teams played four rounds each. Players were either sponsored by individuals, or collected pledges that paid every time their player sent another player to the elimination tent. Parents organized concessions of grilled hamburgers and hotdogs.

The event earned approximately $4,500 for the school. Proceeds will be used to help the school move to its new property this summer.

It is National Tourism Week in Athens

Tourism Week 2013_Proclamation

Mayor Jerry Don Vaught signs the proclamation declaring Tourism Week May 4-12. The travel industry is one of Texas’ largest industries with visitor spending generating $63.2 billion and directly supporting 545,000 jobs with earnings of $17.6 billion. Henderson County generated $110.1 million in visitor spending and supported 480 jobs with earnings of $17.6 million. National Tourism Week is annually recognized the first full week in May, a tradition first celebrated in 1984. Pictured from left to right are Tracie Lyda, America’s Best Value Inn; Sherri Skeeters, Tourism Coordinator; Mayor Jerry Don Vaught; Pam Burton, City Administrator. (COURTESY PHOTO)

Athens Farmers Market Saturday from 8 a.m. to noon

Photo courtesy Athens Farmers Market Facebook Page.
Photo courtesy Athens Farmers Market Facebook Page.

Farmers Market press release

We are growing, growing, growing, not only in produce, but in size!

Visit historic downtown Athens for a fun day of community support. This weekend we will be featuring the Humane Society and the Texas Swing Festival. You may purchase tickets for their fundraiser on May 11 complete with the live music of Ruby Jane, great food and lots of fun!

The North 19 Volunteer Fire Department returns with their near famous homemade breakfast taco in which sales each weekend help keep gas in their trucks. Summer is on its way and they need our support!

Drink sales will benefit the Girl & Boy Scouts and American Heritage Girls.

We have everything from baked goods (breads, cookies, sweetbreads and pies), tamales, jams and jellies including: strawberry pineapple, peach, blackberry, blueberry, wild plum, pickled vegetables, salsas, relishes and soups. Don’t forget about free-range eggs, fresh grown herbs, local raw honey, granolas and sugar scrubs. We also feature local artisans’ handcrafted items such as etched glassware, screen printed t-shirts, Texas crafts and handcrafted natural gemstone jewelry.

Local produce includes but is not limited to naturally grown carrots, greens, kohlrabi, mixed lettuces, purple and green okra, cabbages, onions, frozen shelled peas (black eyed, red ripper, and zipper cream).

If you would like to know more about the market or becoming a vendor please visit us at Also be our fan on Facebook@

Leftover from the rodeo: Get’away Gal turns 80


Going through the notebook and still have this leftover tidbit from last weekend’s Athens Chamber of Commerce PRCA Rodeo …

Remember all those women dressed as rodeo clowns who attended Saturday night’s show? Well, they were all members of the Get’away Gals, a group of women who just like to have fun.

Saturday night, they were celebrating the birthday of one of their own. Zola Hilton (center, in the cool glasses) turned 80. Zola has a long history of being in the arena. In 1951 she was the Fort Worth Stock Show Queen! …. Happy belated birthday, Zola!

East Texas Crisis Center: A lighthouse for battered women

The staff at the East Texas Crisis Center includes, from left, Gwen Cox, volunteer coordinator; Donna Johnson, Outreach coordinator; Estella Perales, Legal Advocate;  and Dori Fortney, receptionist. (MICHAEL V. HANNIGAN PHOTO)
The staff at the East Texas Crisis Center includes, from left, Gwen Cox, volunteer coordinator; Donna Johnson, Outreach coordinator; Estella Perales, Legal Advocate; and Dori Fortney, receptionist. (MICHAEL V. HANNIGAN PHOTO)

(The following story was first published in the May 2013 edition of Fly the Flag.)

By Michael V. Hannigan

There is a nondescript brick building near the heart of Athens, across from the First Baptist Church ROC, where horror stories are the order of the day.

Not the typical Hollywood scarefest fodder, either — there are no special effects and the pain and the terror, the blood and the death, are real.

These are our mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and neighbors who suffer through sexual assault and abuse, usually inflicted by someone they once trusted. And that building on South Carroll Street stands as a lighthouse for them, a guide to help them escape their own private hell.

It is the East Texas Crisis Center, with the noble mission of providing “safety, shelter and education to victims of family violence, sexual assault and other violent crime and to restore dignity and purpose in their lives while promoting public compassion and awareness to reduce violence in the community.”

The ETCC serves five counties (Henderson, Smith, Van Zandt, Wood and Rains) and offers programs including: a shelter for battered women; a hotline for crisis counseling; legal advocacy; community education; crisis intervention in both individual and group settings; family protective orders; victim services; and more.

“What we do is work with victims all the way from safety and shelter to make sure that they are safe, to providing every possible service that we can to help them become sustainable so they can get out of the abuse,” said ETCC Outreach Coordinator Donna Johnson. “We’re here to help them have the resources, and the safety, and the protection so that when they make that final decision to leave for good, we’re here to provide all of those services for them so they don’t have to return.”

Unfortunately, the ETCC’s services are in high demand. Johnson said in 2012, they saw 247 new clients in Henderson County. In addition, ETCC staff and volunteers continued serving 200 more clients from previous years.

That’s between 400-500 victims the local staff of four work with each year.

Johnson calls it “the silent epidemic.”

“It is hard to understand unless it is in your own backyard, and we had to open up the dialogue to help people realize it is in their own backyard,” she said.

The truly scary statistic is the one that Johnson quoted at the Sexual Assault Awareness Month proclamation reading April 2: Only an estimated 18 percent of sexual assaults are reported nationally. That means four out of five assaults are never come to light.

It’s not hard to understand why the problem stays hidden. According to the Texas Health and Human Services Commission, “When a survivor takes steps to leave, she faces many possible barriers to financial stability such as relocation costs, loss of an income source and/or the need to replace basic need items (e.g., furniture, clothing). … Legal issues surrounding domestic violence and custody are extremely complex, particularly when the survivor and her children are forced to relocate.”

Johnson said, “You get a victim who comes in and everything is so overwhelming. Not only are they trying to be safe and go through the steps to stay gone for good, they are also dealing with law enforcement and the criminal justice system.”

And leaving for good is the most dangerous time.

“When a person who has been abused takes action to end the violence or leave the relationship, there is an immediate increased risk of danger to the survivor and her children,” says the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

According to Johnson, it is even more dangerous in Henderson County which, along with Van Zandt County, is in the top 10 percent per capita for domestic violence murders in the state of Texas.

Locally, ETCC (and other advocates such as the Family Peace Project and the Child Advocacy Center), law enforcement, health care providers and the courts work together on the problem, Johnson said.

“We work very closely with law enforcement, the criminal justice system and the health care providers because we all have to work as a group to make sure that victim gets every possible need,” she said.

Local law enforcement officials I spoke to agreed with Johnson’s assessment.

“We have a great working relationship with (law enforcement) now. They feel confident and we feel confident about being able to pick up the phone and talk to the investigator and talk about what is going on, and they listen and they are wanting to do the right thing by the victim,” Johnson said. “I think that, as far as our law enforcement and our criminal justice system, we’ve come a long way.”

There is still a long way to go, as Johnson knows. She also believes she knows the final solution isn’t really up to her.

It is up to us.

“Where do we find a solution? By educating men,” she said. “By trying to put a system together that shows offenders that we will not stand for this; that men will not condone this. That they bring their sons up to know that it is gender respect and that you don’t hit women, that there are other ways that you can deal with that. So it starts with your own sons at a very young age and what you show them in your own environment because it is a learned behavior.”

The ETCC in Henderson County can be reached at 903-675-2137 or the emergency hotline numbers at 903-595-5591 or 1-800-333-0358. You can also visit them online at