Chris Gergeni, a not-for-profit lover, has been doing association management for a little over 20 years and has worked with four different not-for-profit groups. Chris was searching for a new position nationally at the end of his contract, and came across the Bayou Country Children’s Museum (BCCM) in Thibodaux, Louisiana. Lucky enough, he stepped into the Executive Director position at BCCM in November of 2017. Chris says, “I love working with kids and have a lot of experience working in not-for-profit management, and the position seemed like a great fit for me with an exceptional organization.”

Chris is originally from Illinois, but most recently lived in Indiana. In Indiana, Chris ran the National Muzzleloading Riffle Association as Managing Director. Since moving to Thibodaux, he already feels like it’s home since he was raised Southern. Beyond the new French words he’s been introduced to while living in Thibodaux, Chris says, “The people here are like my friends and family from back home. They love the outdoors, cook and eat very well, and have a heritage that fits well with what I was raised in.”

With Chris’ arrival at the BCCM, plenty of new things have been springing up within the organization! For the outdoors, there’s a new First Responders playground outside the museum with two vehicles. Chris explains, “Thibodaux Volunteer Fire Department donated the fire truck, and we’ve had it set up for kids to play (and learn) safely on it. Lafourche Parish Sheriff’s Department donated the Sheriff’s car, which they fully refurbished.”

Inside the museum, they have Safetyville, which has a uniformed deputy there five days a week. “It’s a wonderful partnership that we have with the fire department, as well as the sheriff’s department, and others within the community,” Chris explains.

Safetyville has a number of programs in it, including: weather safety (tornados and lightening, for example), fire safety, gun safety, and dog bite safety. Fire safety is particularly interesting. Chris says, “There’s a fog machine in the room that’s set up as a child’s bedroom. The children are taught how to stay low, feel the doors with the back of their hands for heat, and even exiting a window.” To add onto that, they even teach the kids how to properly use a fire extinguisher! 

There are a number of new exhibits, too, that Chris is excited to be welcoming to the BCCM soon. One of those is a sponsorship from South Louisiana Bank, which will be creating a drive up bank exhibit inside the museum teaching children the importance of banking, as well as fiscal responsibilities. They’ll be having a grand opening for this exhibit on May 5! The next exhibit, thanks to the sponsorship of Synergy Bank, will be creating an interactive ATM inside of the museum.

Coming this summer, there will be a robotics program for kids to learn how to build robots, program them to do different things, and get into engineering, design, and programming! Chris pursued the grant for this program, where they’ll be using Legos to build the robots.

Another important partnership they have within the community is with the Nicholls Education Department. Before education majors at Nicholls start their student teaching journey, they are able to take part in the BCCM’s Toddler Story Time. With this, the Nicholls students are able to do reading, crafts, create plans, and work with a variety of ages to get exposure to teaching.

Outside of the museum, Chris is pleased to announce the new painting of the BCCM sign and murals that have become a part of the museum since he joined the organization. Murals by Hans Geist are on the West end of the building. “It’s phenomenal and beautiful artwork. Hans integrated CoCo the Alligator, the BCCM’s mascot, into two of the three pieces of the mural. There may be a fourth one coming,” Chris says.

BCCM works heavily with the community and staying involved with it. It’s something Chris is very passionate about. He is extremely thankful for every person and organization he has had the opportunity to work with since joining the BCCM, and is excited to keep these relationships prospering.

“I have a really great staff to work with and I’m incredibly thankful to have them,” Chris says. “We’re always working on new projects to bring to our Bayou Country and are excited to keep the community involved!”