United Way of Northwest Louisiana gave 1,500 backpacks full of needed supplies to students attending Red River Parish Public Schools. United Way’s Back to School Bash held Monday, July 31 at Red River High School in Coushatta – is the largest program that offers school supplies to students in the parish. According to the ALICE (Asset Limited Income Constrained Employed) Study of Financial Hardship, 40 percent of that population is struggling to afford basic needs. The annual Back to School Bash is helping to fight and reverse this statistic.

Sixty-four percent of children in Red River Parish entering kindergarten are unprepared. In response, United Way’s Back to School Bash also introduced a new reading program. Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library (DPIL) is now available to all children living in Red River Parish under five years of age. The program will address early childhood literacy and help children become kindergarten ready. This nationally recognized program provides every child who enrolls with an age appropriate book each month, creating their own personal library. It inspires families to read more frequently to their children and catalyze our community to invest more time, talent and treasures to better prepare children to enter kindergarten ready to succeed.

“Of all ten parishes United Way of Northwest Louisiana serves, research has shown that Red River Parish has the highest need for these resources,” said Jennifer Martin, Vice President of Resource Development at UWNWLA. “Children in this parish are entering kindergarten unprepared and scoring below grade level, even above the Northwest Louisiana average. United Way is committed to fighting for education and this is our way of serving all of our parishes.”
A grant provided by BHP will allow UWNWLA to support and sponsor nearly 250 children in Red River Parish, birth to five years of age through the program. BHP has provided seed money for three years to fully establish the program in the area. Funding will need to be secured after the three year grant dollars have been used to maintain the program. With this funding, United Way will serve children of the 3,320 households living in the parish.

“At BHP, we understand the need for resources in Red River Parish. BHP is committed to supporting educational development to benefit the communities that our employees live in,” said Clint Poche, Superintendent Area Operations for BHP. “Since seeing the positive results Imagination Library has had in other parishes, we believe supporting this United Way program will help to begin closing the educational gap in Red River Parish.”

United Way’s Back to School Bash also had community resource vendors available. Students had food, games and activities like bounce houses. All school supplies given to Red River Parish Public Schools were donations from businesses and organizations such as the South Central Region group of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority.