The pencils, binders, notebooks, crayons and brightly colored folders were counted, sorted and stacked in an empty Central Middle School classroom as Volunteer Ascension volunteers ended their annual School Tools and Stuff the Bus campaigns.

The nonprofit agency started the School Tools drive in June when it rolled out big, blue barrels at businesses across the parish. Then, one weekend in July, the group spread out to several retail outlets for a one-day drive.

The final push for school supplies came July 16 when yellow school buses were filled with everything from cases of loose-leaf paper to boxes of markers.

The agency collected more than $31,000 in school supplies during the Stuff the Bus campaign, Volunteer Ascension Executive Director Sherry Denig said.

“We actually beat East Baton Rouge Parish this year,” she said.

A similar program is held on the same day across the Baton Rouge area to support EBR schoolchildren.

“Thanks to the generosity of the community, we will be able to provide needed supplies to children across the parish,” Denig said. “It’s all about making sure the children who need school supplies get those supplies.”

The agency has been doing that for more than 10 years, she said.

An initial grant from Vulcan Chemicals kicked off the program. A teacher advisory committee was put together to discuss how to use the donation. The teachers came up with the idea of each educator ordering supplies needed at the beginning of the year.

Denig said Volunteer Ascension has made a few changes in recent years to the distribution process, but the basic idea is still the same one those teachers came up with years ago.

“They place an order, and we do our best to fill it,” Denig said.

Last school year, Denig said, 2,826 children in kindergarten through eighth grade received supplies through the program.

Money collected throughout the collection drives is used to buy supplies not donated.

“So basically each and every school supply, and every dollar collected and used to purchase supplies, goes directly into the hands of an Ascension Parish child in need,” Denig said on the agency’s Facebook page. “For everyone that participated in School Tools or Stuff the Bus, rest assured, you are making a difference in the life of an Ascension Parish child in need.”

In addition to filling supply orders, the nonprofit agency collects and distributes school uniforms to children in need.

While the number of used uniforms is down this year, Denig is hopeful she will collect enough money and clothes to meet the need.

The uniforms will be distributed from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 30 at Gonzales Primary School’s cafeteria, and from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Aug. 2 at Donaldsonville High School for west side parents.