The 15th annual Assess the Need drive kicked off at the Denham Springs and Walker Wal-Mart stores over the weekend.

Residents dropped off notebooks, pencils, paper and money to support Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor’s Assess the Need program.

Last year, the drive provided school supplies to more than 2,300 students throughout Livingston Parish.

Residents can continue supporting Taylor’s program from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Walker and Denham Springs Wal-Mart stores.

The drive is staffed by volunteers who collect money and school supplies that are delivered to schools to help students in need.

All money collected is used to buy school supplies.

“We buy everything in bulk; we order everything from Wal-Mart, so we know everything we’re going to need,” Taylor said.

All forms of donations are accepted, but money is preferable because the organization is a tax-exempt nonprofit and can make the dollar stretch further and provide more supplies, organizers said.

Taylor says the cause is important to him because a lack of supplies can lead to a child giving up in school.

“Let’s imagine you go the first day and the teacher says, ‘Let’s get out our notebook and pencil’ and you have to say, ‘I don’t have,’ ” Taylor said. “Then you go to your second hour, and the teacher says, ‘Let’s get out some colors and a ruler’ and you say, ‘I don’t have,’ and before you know it, ‘I don’t have’ becomes ‘I don’t care.’

“The truth of the matter is, you have children who really do care, but a mechanism kicks in that says, ‘I have to be defensive.’ ”

Brittany Morrison, a 16-year-old cheerleader from Denham Springs High School, volunteered at the drive Sunday.

“I think (volunteering is) important because there are a lot of people in the community who don’t have what their children need to do everything the school requires,” Morrison said. “Most of the time, my family will come and get supplies, we’ll go to school, and the teachers will tell us we need more stuff.”

Despite the large need in the parish, the organization always has come up with the exact amount needed.

Event organizer Krysta Watts said Taylor always has been able to find the money needed to get the supplies to area children.

“I tell him, ‘Why do we do that?’ every year because God is going to provide everything for us that we need,” Watts said.

School counselors determine the kids in need in each school.

Taylor is proud of the impact the program has had throughout its 15 years.

“We have kids we have helped from the time they started kindergarten all the way through to the 12th grade,” Taylor said.

Watts said the community support is what fuels the program.

“If it weren’t for the community, we couldn’t do what we do. They come through; they smile and put it in the (donation) bucket,” Watts said. “Nine times out of 10, we don’t have to say anything.”

Taylor is hopeful people will see the long-range impact of whatever donation they can afford.

“All of a sudden, you find out the person you help becomes the best doctor you’ve ever seen,” Taylor said. “All because somebody cared enough to reach in their pocket and put in a quarter, a dollar, a five, a ten, a hundred or whatever it is, so there’s not one kid in Livingston Parish who has to look at a teacher and say, ‘I don’t have.’ ”

For more on the program, visit http://assesstheneed.com.