PHOTO GALLERY — Houston Association of Port Arthurans provides for local students in need

Published 12:32 am Saturday, September 10, 2022

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Whether it was the donated clothing or the message inside, 32 Port Arthur Independent School District students on Friday were reassured that they were cared for.

“I put a little note for each kid that says we believe in you and we’re just like you,” said Austin McElroy, president of the Houston Association of Port Arthurans. “We were students in Port Arthur and we had people that believed in us. We grew up in Port Arthur and were raised by a village.”

The notes were included in a giveaway of uniforms and other assorted clothing purchased by HAPA for the second consecutive year. Group members reach out to social workers at various PAISD campuses and gather clothes sizes for children in need of uniforms or other basic essentials.

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“There are kids that don’t have uniforms, and that makes them stand out a little bit,” McElroy said. “My idea was we’ll target those kids that don’t have uniforms or are having a difficult time getting them and help them out.”

While the HAPA president graduated from a public PAISD high school, he started in Catholic school, where uniforms were required.

“If you look different, you feel different,” he said. “If you look good, you feel good. You can be a better student if you don’t have that roadblock.”

HAPA came to Port Arthur with uniforms for 16 boys and 16 girls, as well as underwear, socks and even school-centered items.

“They asked for spirit shirts so the kids could participate in supporting the Titans,” he said. “We’ve got about 25 spirit shirts for some of the kids that didn’t have that. And they have college days, and some kids can’t afford those.”

So along with PAISD shirts came shirts for Texas A&M, the University of Texas, the University of Houston and an assortment from historically Black universities.

Everything was purchased by or donated to HAPA.

Formed in 1980, HAPA consists of Port Arthur residents who now reside in the Houston area. However, it is a subgroup to a national organization that spans Texas and other states.

McElroy’s father served on the PAISD school board for years, and wife Becky Bradshaw McElroy’s father worked as a teacher, coach and principal in the district.

But it was her work as a school nurse in the Houston area that helped prompt the purchasing of clothing.

Often she’d come home from the store with socks, underwear or other items not needed in their home. When McElroy asked why, his wife explained it was for students in need.

“The contributions of our alumni and the folks that are associated with Port Arthur is invaluable to our schools and our culture,” said Memorial Principal Victor Fulton. “So we really appreciate the fact that someone would come back and give to the kids from the schools that they graduated from.”