Fifteen years ago, Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor was sitting around the breakfast table with a group of teachers talking about the need for a school supply drive to give area children the tools they need in the classroom.

Since then, Taylor said, the Assess the Need program he founded has collected more than $500,000 in donations and supplies for Livingston Parish students.

Assess the Need collects and distributes school supplies to prekindergarten through 12th-grade children in Livingston Parish public schools.

“It’s hard to believe that we started this program 15 years ago,” he said. “In many ways, it seems like yesterday that my wife and I were sitting at our breakfast table with some of our teacher friends discussing the need in our schools and putting a plan of action together.”

Taylor said the program has grown from him first thinking he and volunteers could help around “a couple hundred children, if we’re lucky.”

The past few years, the program has helped about 2,500 students annually. “We actually think this year’s numbers may climb closer to 3,000 children because of the continued growth in our school system,” he said.

To meet that growing need, Taylor said the campaign has set a goal of collecting about $50,000 in donations this year.

In addition to the financial support from several local businesses and community organizations, volunteers will be outside the Walker and Denham Springs Wal-Mart stores from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Aug. 1-2 and Aug. 8-9 to accept monetary and in-kind donations.

“Volunteers will be dressed in our bright Assess the Need shirts, so store visitors can easily identify them and give to our program. We also will have information available if anyone has questions,” he said.

He said donations also can also be mailed to P.O. Box 1802, Denham Springs, LA 70727, given online at www.Assess theNeed.com, or dropped off at the Livingston Parish Assessor’s Office in Livingston during regular work hours, 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday.

Taylor said Assess the Need is a registered nonprofit organization, and all donations are tax-deductible.

“Every year, since the start of our campaign, the people of Livingston Parish have generously responded to our request for help,” Taylor said. “We are launching out in faith again this year, believing that our parish will continue to partner with us to give our students the tools they need to be successful in the classroom.”