Our History

The 7 Rivers LGBT Resource Center was founded in 2004 by a dedicated group of community members who saw a need and worked to make the space a reality.

Timeline

The Center started as an idea in 2003. An advisory board looked at the need for an LGBT Center in our community, and how it could be used. From there, the group drafted the first mission statement of The Center: “We are a voice and presence promoting understanding and building connections regarding sexual orientation and gender identity.”

In 2004, The Center set up its first office space in the Scenic Concept Building. In September, the first space is rented and opened to the public. This is also the year the Center is recognized as a non-profit and a website is launched.

In 2005, The Center established the Christa Matter Memorial Library.

In 2006, The Center made some big strides. It moved to its location on Pearl Street and organized the first annual PRIDE fest. That year, we also started blogging and sending out e-newsletters to members, subscribers, and supporters. Other major accomplishments: the second annual garage sale fundraiser, a Women’s Book Group and a Gender Queer/Transgender regular meeting were set up, and thanks to a joint effort with UW-L, La Crosse had the second highest “NO” turnout in the state for the vote that would ultimately ban same-sex marriages and civil unions.

A LGBTQIA+ rally outside La Crosse’s City Hall in December 2008.

In 2007, the Center started a number of firsts. It was the first year of weekly meetings for GALAXY and the Coulee Region LGBT group for adults, a new monthly movie night, a Queer Prom at Rainbow’s Edge, the La Crosse Pride Motorcycle Poker Run and Bicycle Pride Run, an AIDS candlelight vigil, and The Center showed up on Myspace.

In 2008, the momentum continued. This year, the Center would start the search for an Executive Director;

Roseanne St. Sauver is hired. The Center received a grant to start addressing health issues among LGBT individuals, and starts regular drop in and meet and greets, among other events. The Rainbow Internet Cafe, now part of the Media Center, launches.

In 2009, The Center started bringing on more of a full-fledged staff. Outreach goes further into rural parts, and the programming expands and continues.

A photo from February 2009 showing our previous location.

In 2010, local elected officials Jennifer Shilling, Kathleen Vinehout, and Dan Kapanke visit during a meet and greet. The Progressive Dinner begins.

In 2013, Jackson Jantzen is hired as the new Executive Director – this year he takes a trip to the White House to talk about ACA in LGBTQ Communities. Board President Cindy Killion is honored at the Coulee Region Volunteer of the Year. Pride Along the Mississippi moves into the community. An office is opened in Winona at the Women’s Resource Center.

In 2014, the Center moved to its current location on 6th St. S. in La Crosse and relaunched its webpage with a major update.

Executive Director Alesha Schandelmeier poses while the new space was under construction. Come in to see how the completed project came together!

In 2018, the Center underwent a major renovation and expansion to the southern portion of its La Crosse location. Through this project, we were able to build a gender-neutral and ADA compliant bathroom, meeting room with a projector, cyber center, two kitchen spaces, expand the “Fresh Out of the Closet” space and build a meeting room for GALAXY.