Alesha Schandelmeier announced via social media that she is stepping down as the executive director of La Crosse’s The Center: 7 Rivers LGBTQ Connection.
Schandelmeier said she began there as a volunteer 11 years ago and has been director over seven years.
She wrote that recent staffing changes made by The Center’s board of directors, and a “mass exodus of volunteers,” played a part in her decision.
“It feels as if I am being set up for failure. I had attempted multiple times during the last board meeting to express my concerns and they were not heard nor acknowledged,” Schandelmeier wrote. “Unfortunately, without our staff and dedicated volunteers this has become an untenable situation that is no longer a healthy working environment.”
The Center put out a statement thanking Schandelmeier for her time as director and talked about the group going forward.
“We expect there to be some operational disruptions as we continue discussions about restructuring for the future,” The Center statement read, in part. “Throughout this time, we remain committed to The Center’s mission to create spaces for connection, community, education, and advocacy for LGBTQIA+ people, our allies, and our neighbors
Schandelmeier went on to say she understands the The Center funding dilemma that led to cutting 100% of payroll to keep programming going, but hope things can change.
“I will miss this place more than you can imagine,” she said. “There are so many memories here in these walls and special times that no one can take away from us.”
The Center said drop-in service will end Dec. 8, and will communicate with the community of further changes.
“At the moment, we anticipate closing drop-in services effective December 8th. We will continue to update the community as disruptions become more clear.
“We know these are difficult days for our LGBTQIA+ community,” The Center statement continued. “Service disruptions to a queer-centered resource for any amount of time is the last thing we want to do with such great need before us. Know that during this time you are not alone. While our doors are temporarily closed, you can continue to find supportive resources (here).”
The Center also noted that any questions or needs can be communicated with its board of director president, Elizabeth Digby-Britten.
Schandelmeier noted some of the experiences she’s had with The Center:
- That time that Deb sat and talked with an individual for over 6 hours and convinced them to get treatment and let her take them to the hospital.
- The multiple youth who came back, as adults and thanked us for saving their lives. Us just being here and treating them with care.
- The young man who came in on a rainy day and needed clothing, He had a job interview and was only able to go (in his words) because we cared about making sure he looked clean and put together.
- The various individuals who crossed our threshold in pain – physical and/or emotional, who just needed someone to smile at them and a quiet place to exist.
- The LGBTQ+ community members who have to hide their true identities outside these walls, but in here can be themselves.
- The parents who walk through the door and are crying trying to figure out how to support their children… or the youth who come in in tears and we are able to find them supports that they need.
Schandelmeier ended by thanking those who have supported her, and asking this question: “How can I continue to come to work knowing that the community has been devastated?”
—This story has been updated to include statements from The Center’s board of directors.