Hammond-area families get help with school supplies thanks to drive started by late judge | Livingston/Tangipahoa


HAMMOND— Children from 1,200 families will soon return to school with new backpacks full of necessary school supplies, thanks to the efforts of volunteers who participated in the last Back 2 School Bash.

The initiative was started by the late Judge Grace Gassaway, who presided over the Hammond Town Court for 24 years before she died several months ago.

Gassaway and his City Court staff, with the help of the Mayor of Hammond’s office, started the free school supply program many years ago in an effort to meet a community need. Its staff, including Guy Recotta, clerk of the municipal court; Carolyn Davis, Court Clerk for the City Court; and Renee Barber, Director of the Families in Need of Court Services Division; were part of the large group of volunteers who distributed the backpacks at Hammond Westside Montessori School on July 30.

Barber said the program started early in the day and by mid-afternoon all available backpacks loaded with supplies had been claimed.

“It was a long day, but thanks to volunteers from community churches, businesses, civic groups and others, we were able to distribute all the backpacks and supplies we prepared. The Back 2 School Bash is hard work, but very rewarding,” Barber said.

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Volunteers working with the program raised $5,000 to purchase school supplies.

“Without the generosity of the community, there is no way we can run our annual backpack and school supply program,” Barber said. “Our community is very generous and every year when we ask for monetary contributions and volunteers, we get positive responses. The students who have received all these school supplies will be better equipped to start the new school year thanks to the generosity of so many.

Davis said the Back 2 School Bash is important to Gassaway and everyone involved with the program is “looking forward to continuing this mission in his honor. Grace Gassaway meant so much to Hammond and the surrounding communities and everyone involved in the party is only too excited to see that we are continuing the program in her honor and for the children who need these school supplies.

To efficiently distribute the backpacks, volunteers occupied positions along the driveway in front of the school. Those picking up the backpacks were met by the volunteers who then delivered the requested number of backpacks. Among those handing out the backpacks were two members of the Louisiana National Guard: PFC Brandon Cato and Pvt. Christian Rousseau.

Cato said the Guard encourages them to contribute to community service and “so we chose to spend the day helping out with the Back 2 School Bash. It’s been a rewarding experience…everyone who came to pick up the school supplies seems grateful.” help.”

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