We really ramped up our Queer Cast which is our twice monthly online web show…we have had mayoral candidates, special editions with school board members…trying to showcase other nonprofits in the area.

Alesha Schandelmeier

Executive Director, The Center: 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection

We connect with Alesha Schandelmeier of The Center: 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection, we chat beginnings, path to the Center, programming, and what’s next and needed by this vital organization in the La Crosse Area.

We also touch on the Forward La Crosse campaign, which is a campaign encouraging the public input in updating the City of La Crosse’s Comprehensive Plan.

Special thanks to our Podcast Sponsors!

Frozen River Film Festival

Amy Gabay 00:00
This podcast is brought to you by People’s Food Co Op, a community owned grocery store in downtown La Crosse, Wisconsin and Rochester, Minnesota that promotes local farmers and producers through an emphasis on fresh, healthy, sustainable food. Anyone can shop, everyone is welcome. For more information, visit them online at PFC.coop. This podcast is also brought to you by Trempealeau County Tourism. Whether your idea of fun is bicycling, hiking or canoeing, afterwards head into the heart of one of their welcoming communities to experience historic architecture, independent shops and locally owned dining establishments. Visit Trempealeau County Tourism online. Artspire is back with a full weekend of art at the Pump House Regional Arts Center. Enjoy live music from Cloud Cult, Bill Miller and B2wins, plus a fine art fair, interactive art projects, and visual and performing arts June 10th through 11th. Learn more at artspire@thepumphouse.org. We connect with Alesha Schandelmeier of The Center: 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection, we chat beginnings, path to the Center, programming, and what’s next and needed by this vital organization in the La Crosse Area. We also touch on the Forward La Crosse campaign, which is a campaign encouraging the public input in updating the City of La Crosse’s Comprehensive Plan. You can find more conversation, food reviews, live music and events on our website lacrosselocal.com. I’m Amy.

Brent Hanifl 01:30
I’m Brent.

Amy Gabay 01:31
And this is La Crosse Local.

Alesha Schandelmeier 01:34
My name is Alesha Schandelmeier, and I’m the executive director of The Center: 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection. I was born and raised in Northern Illinois, and lived in the Chicago area for several years before moving to Wisconsin in 2004. After I had my kids, I had gone back to school to study Psychology, and always wanted to be the person, be who you needed. So I decided to volunteer at the center facilitating our high school youth group, which is Galaxy. Shortly after that I joined the board of directors and then was hired on five years ago.

Brent Hanifl 02:11
When did it get its start?

Alesha Schandelmeier 02:12
The Center started in 2004 with a small group of people. They had a one room office. After a couple of years they moved to Pearl Street, which is downtown, in a downtown storefront for several years. And then in 2015, we moved to our current location on the corner of Sixth and Cass Streets.

Brent Hanifl 02:32
Just kind of going through your website, it looks like you have a number of different programs, events that people can participate in. Can you name off a few of those?

Alesha Schandelmeier 02:41
Sure, we have support groups for middle school, high school, all the way through adult. We have a transgender support group, we have a lesbian connection group. So we even have groups for those who are interested in sitting around just crafting. People get together, work on their own projects, or events. We do several events throughout the year. But our biggest one is Pride Fest, which is in September. And then we also have our biggest fundraiser that same week, which is So You Think Can Drag.

Brent Hanifl 03:15
Due to COVID I’m sure you had to adjust to the different circumstances. I became more aware of you because of all your different online programming, you know, related to everything from interviewing the mayoral candidates to you know, school board. Was there anything that you know, I’m sure it was tough for everybody. Was there anything that came out of COVID that was positive in any way?

Alesha Schandelmeier 03:37
Yeah, we ended up having to cancel all of our fundraisers in both 2020 and 2021. We were able to host Pride Fest or Pride in the Park, which is outside at Riverside Park, we were able to do that. But a lot of our online programming, we actually, I do a lot of training in the community. Usually LGBTQ one on one and different training about the LGBTQ community. But I was able to switch to an online format with those. So now we have both available in person and online training. But we really ramped up our Queer Casts, which is our twice monthly online web show. I guess it’s on Facebook Live, the first and third Monday of each month. Deb, who’s our administrative assistant and volunteer coordinator, hosts that. We’ve had, like you said mayoral candidates, we had a special edition with some school board members. We’ve had all kinds of different groups trying to showcase other nonprofits in the area and what goes on in the region of La Crosse.

Brent Hanifl 04:44
So what’s next? Is there anything you’re excited for that’s coming down the road?

Alesha Schandelmeier 04:48
Well, we’re definitely hoping to be able to have all of our Pride festivities this year including So You Think You Can Drag. And then also we’ve decided this year to host a Pride Family Picnic in June. A lot of people ask us, why do we celebrate Pride in September, when Pride Month nationally is in June? Well, for a couple different reasons, we want to make sure that all of the students who are in the area are able to attend. And also, we want to make it convenient for people who want to go to those larger city prides in June to be able to do that. And then once you know, things have, I guess, returned back to La Crosse normal with all the students, and we host Pride Fest here.

Brent Hanifl 05:33
You also recently participated in some interviews for Forward La Crosse, which is basically trying to get public input for the City of La Crosse’s Comprehensive Plan. Why do you feel it’s important for folks to participate in that planning process?

Alesha Schandelmeier 05:48
Well, I think we all want to make La Crosse a better place for us to live and get more people to visit and more people to stay. And I think that if all of us get together and you know, answer those online questions, that’s the start to really getting input and you know, making La Crosse a place for everybody.

Brent Hanifl 06:11
So if people want to find out more, actually support The Center, what can they do? You know, is there anything from volunteering to donating any money?

Alesha Schandelmeier 06:18
Yeah, we definitely, especially since we had to cancel a lot of fundraisers. monetary support is really important. But we do. We also love volunteers. We have a free clothing closet that anybody is able to use, it doesn’t matter if you’re part of the LGBTQ community or not. So we also take, you know, seasonal, you know, good repair, clothing donations for that. And we have, like I mentioned, Deb, who’s our administrative assistant and volunteer coordinator, she is the one you would contact for volunteering. We have just a wide variety of volunteer jobs, whether it’s spending a couple hours a week at our front desk, helping sort clothes in our clothing closet or helping out with, you know, one of our smaller events or in September with our Pride in the Park.

Brent Hanifl 07:08
You kind of referenced off quite a few activities that people can participate in. What’s the best avenue for people to find out more, you know, everything from your live show to basic necessities they got going on?

Alesha Schandelmeier 07:19
Well, our Facebook page is huge. We run all of our shows through there, and we post all of our events, but also we’ve just updated our website as well. So that’s going to have all kinds of different calendars and community event information posted there as well.

Amy Gabay 07:37
La Crosse Local Podcast is a production of River Travel Media. Do you have an interview idea you’d like to share with us? Message us on Facebook at La Crosse local. Find out more about us at lacrosselocal.com and you can subscribe to the La Crosse Local Podcast on your favorite podcast app. If you like us, rate us five stars. We appreciate it.


About La Crosse Local

La Crosse Local is an arts, food, and entertainment podcast and publication for La Crosse County and its surrounding communities.

Find us in your favorite podcast app.

Listen to this podcast on Spreaker