Aug 20, 2014 09:41 Donations help needy children start school year prepared Donations help needy children start school year prepared Advocate staff photo by CHRISTINE MORGAN ARCENEAUX -- Darrell Whitehead, from left, and David Spense load school supplies in an SUV Aug. 6 at the Livingston Literacy and Technology Center. The supplies were collected during the Assess the Need school supply drive coordinated by the Livingston Parish Assessor's Office. by christine morgan arceneaux| firstname.lastname@example.org Aug. 20, 2014 Comments DENHAM SPRINGS — Representatives from all 47 schools in Livingston Parish arrived early Aug. 6 at the Livingston Literacy and Technology Center to receive boxes of new school supplies for their students. More than 2,500 students started the new school year Thursday with new supplies due to donations from area businesses and residents to the Assess the Need Livingston Parish School Supply Drive. Now in its 14th year, the school supply drive, led by Livingston Parish Assessor Jeff Taylor, has raised more than $500,000, organizer Krysta Watts said. This year, the program raised more than $50,000, Taylor said. “The Assess the Need program is a huge help to kids and their families and also teachers,” Watts said. “Volunteers work with principals, teachers and counselors to determine the amount of assistance needed for each local school. School officials work to ensure students will have the necessary supplies available to them on the first day of school.” Maurepas High School Assistant Principal Carolyn Vosburg said the program helps several students at her school and provides each student in need with all of the age-appropriate school supplies, including crayons, folders, binders, paper, pencils, pens and other items. “The supplies look no different than what the child next to them have,” Vosburg said, adding that the supply drive “evens the playing field” for all of the students. “We have students who have nothing. We’re giving them everything they need.” Vosburg said students who have their supplies on the first day of school aren’t as anxious as those who don’t and having the supplies “removes the fear that they’re not going to have the support they need.” Instead of worrying about having the correct school supplies, the students can spend their time and energy focusing on their schoolwork, she said. In addition to aiding the Livingston Parish public schools, Taylor said supplies also are donated to area Christian schools and area Head Start programs. “We’re trying to reach out to everyone,” Taylor said. Taylor, who started the program to help children at the start of the school year instead of holidays like Christmas and Thanksgiving, said that 14 years ago, he estimated it would cost about $25 per child to purchase supplies for about 200 children. “We underestimated the number of kids that need help,” he said, adding that the program helped 1,400 that first year. Volunteers with the program began collecting supplies from area businesses in February. Residents donated during drives held in Walker and Denham Springs, and by sending donations to the Assessor’s Office. “The last two Saturdays (July 26 and Aug. 2), we collected over $7,000 from the community,” Taylor said. “It takes the whole community. It takes someone who has a heart for giving.” Principals, teachers and counselors also have set aside some of the donated supplies to help students who may need help during the school year.