DENHAM SPRINGS — Early on Monday, a group of volunteers gathered at the Livingston Parish Literacy and Learning Center to load vehicles stretched out in a steady line with large boxes of school supplies bound for all the schools in Livingston Parish, continuing a tradition that started 18 years ago when Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor and his wife, Delia, initiated the Assess the Need program

Since its inception, the program has provided school supplies to thousands of students. Since the flood of 2016, the program is needed more than ever, organizers said.

Delivery of the school supplies was the culmination of the annual drive that gathers donated items and cash that sustains the program. The final push for money and school supplies was Saturday and Sunday when volunteers, most of them teachers and school administrators, manned collection stations at the doors of all the parish’s Walmart stores.

Delia Taylor, assisting in the program Saturday, said this year’s drive marked 18 years since she and her husband began Assess the Need. That fledgling initiative has since grown into a large, communitywide effort that assistants students from pre-K through the high school years. “Jeff and I were discussing Assess the Need a while back and realized that the program has now helped some students throughout their entire academic careers at our parish schools. Over the years, we have watched Assess the Need grow, and it has truly been a remarkable program,” she said.

She added, “we could not have done this without the generosity of the people of Livingston Parish. The generosity of our people and their willingness to share what they have with others is truly outstanding. During the flood of two years ago, our people showed just how generous and giving they are. As a community, we just took it for granted that we would be here for each other and that we would get through that time of trial,” she offered.

Delia Taylor said Assess the Need has partnered with local corporations and businesses, as well as local residents who don’t hesitate to put a dollar or more in the buckets held out by volunteers, to make Assess the Need the success it has become.

“We don’t know who benefits … it is the teachers who see the children every day and who know those in need. Some people who have never asked for help will receive help anyway if there is a need. You never know when that need arises. A family member may be sick, a father may lose his job, and all of a sudden a family can’t afford the educational tools and supplies needed to get a good education. The teachers are very discreet when they give out the school supplies and they take the needy student aside and tell them what we are doing. Some students step off the bus with no school supplies, and at the end of the day, get back on the bus with a new backpack loaded with the things they need to be a success in the classroom,” she said.

Bubba Crowder, deputy assessor who was volunteering to collect supplies and cash donations, said he supports the program because “we are just trying to give every child a chance.”

Lance Dawsey, principal of Doyle High School who was manning the same Walmart door as Crowder, said some families are still feeling the impact of the catastrophic floods of two years ago. “We are trying to help families like that.”

Southside Elementary School faculty member Sarah Watson said of the program, “We do it because we love our students and we love the field of education. This is our life’s work and we sincerely want to see our students succeed. Their chances of being successful are increased when they have all the tools they need to learn what we are trying to teach them.”

About this year drive, Krysta Watts, who assists in spearheading Assess the Need, said this year’s drive has been going very well. “As usual, our corporate sponsors have come through and their monetary donations are important because it allows us to buy school supplies in bulk at a favorable price. But all donations are important. The need will always be there, especially during this time when many people are still recovering from the flood.”

Watts estimates that about 3,000 students spread out in all the parish schools will be given needed school supplies in the coming weeks. She adds that Assess the Need helps families throughout the year. “You never know when a need will arise.” Assess the Need also assists children in foster care who need the support.

Watts said parents or guardians who feel that their children need help with school supplies should contact the principal or guidance counselor at their school.

Donette Richard, who made a donation at the Denham Springs Walmart, said of her gift, “I believe in helping others, especially those in need. I know from personal experience that some people need help and I want to help them out … especially the children. By supporting Assess the Need, I know that I am helping the children and I am happy to do so.”