It seems only natural that with the connection to the Red River and Shreveport Aquarium the water-based creatures of Surfari Pals would find downtown to their liking. Jennifer and Kip Cummings own and manage the 501c3, which recently located at 1010 Marshall Street downtown. They are thrilled to become part of the downtown community and are getting involved in downtown projects. We asked Jennifer to tell us a little about Surfari Pals and their plans for the future.
What exactly is Surfari Pals? Surfari Pals is a fun way to teach elementary-age children manners, social etiquette, life skills, respect, and self-confidence. We take students on a character-building, learning adventure using ocean-based characters and Kip Surfari as their guide. We are teaching the program as an enrichment class in several local low-income elementary schools. This program is funded through grants from SWEPCO, Beaird Foundation, Everything Marketing, several other local businesses and private donors. Surfari Pals is a 501c3.
You looked around downtown for a while to find the perfect location. Tell me why you ended up at 1010 Marshall? We officed from home and out of our garage for five years. Not only did we outgrow that space because of developing curriculum, we now need teachers and volunteers to join the adventure. We needed space to accommodate this growth. We wanted a space in proximity to other community organizations that also benefit children. We needed a space that allowed us to open our doors to people, but our needs and budget were not lining up. After an extensive search, we reached out to DDA director Liz Swaine to see if she knew of any properties that we were unaware of. She certainly did. She directed us to the 1010 Marshall St property. Thad Thrash at TCS loves what we are doing and wanted to partner with us. His support made this possible.
You’re participating in the Cleanup this Saturday and mentioned that you love being a part of the downtown community. Why is that important to you? We believe that your surroundings play a huge role in your mental and emotional health. We have a character, Ollie the Octopus, that teaches children to clean up their neighborhood, school, and the whole world. When we take the time to invest in our surroundings, it instills a sense of pride in us. A clean environment gives us mental and physical energy. We plan to foster this energy starting in our own “business neighborhood.”
As you look down the road, what is the future of Surfari Pals? Our short-term goal is to utilize volunteers to improve and expand the program in Caddo. Our mid-range goal is to develop the curriculum into a marketable format so we can send it out to schools everywhere. Our long-range goal is to have a summer camp called Camp Surfari. This camp will be a fun week of character training for all children, regardless of financial status. As Kip Cummings says, “One day Surfari Pals will be Coast-to-coast and border-to- border,” and it’s all starting right here in Shreveport, La.
Congratulations, Jennifer and Kip. We’re pleased to welcome you to downtown!