Our start to services for people with disabilities

Aptiv, established in 1976 as Riverfront Activity Center, was the result of an idea three friends started from the community in La Crosse, WI. They worked for different organizations that provided services to support independent living for adults with disabilities. One worked at an employment facility, one worked at what is now called an Adult Family Home, and the third worked for an organization that provided recreation and social opportunities for people with disabilities.

Although the three organizations were going strong, the friends recognized that even more people needed services, and there just weren't enough opportunities. They felt the need to do something to better serve the communities needs. So they developed a plan for a place that could meet the three parts of a person's life all together: social, employment, and independent living.

We had the belief that this was the right thing to do,” said Gary Schettle, one of the original founders. “We were three individuals with a passion and compassion for the people being served.”

Ultimately, the planning paid off when their proposal was accepted by the La Crosse County Board. In 1977, the new organization opened in a warehouse building at the end of Market Street in La Crosse, near the banks of the Mississippi River. The location inspired the organization’s name: Riverfront Activity Center, Inc. Another founder, Tom Avery, was hired as the first executive director of Riverfront.

As the people grew, so did the organization. Within five years, Riverfront had outgrown the first building and moved into a new facility. Two years later, 1985, services expanded to Jackson County, Wisconsin. Expansion of service areas continued over the next four decades: 1987 (Buffalo County), 1997 (Monroe County), 2001 (Vernon County), 2002 (Rock County), and 2020 (Walworth & Sauk County).

In addition to growing service areas, the organization expanded their types of services and ages served. The expansion of services included: residential homes, behavioral support, range of motion, day services, and many other innovation programs to assist people with their individual growth. In 2016, the organization began serving youth ages 4-18 in the counties of La Crosse and Jackson to provide summer and afterschool services, as well as mentoring and daily living skills.

To reflect the expansion of services areas, types of services, and ages served, Riverfront embarked on a rebranding effort. In the fall of 2017, it revealed a new name, new identity and new brand — Aptiv — a positive blend of the words live, aptitude, active and adaptive. Aptiv is a created word, drawn from the ideas of natural ability, adaptability, energy, engagement, and living an exciting and fulfilling life.

Today, Aptiv supports more than 1,700 people through eight locations and across 42 counties in the state of Wisconsin. Aptiv’s mission is to provide a spectrum of innovative support for individuals with disabilities so they may live more independent lives, has guided the organization since 1976 and continues to guide Aptiv through changes to meet community needs.


Organizational Timeline:
  • In 1976 founded as Riverfront Activity Center in La Crosse, Wisconsin

  • In 1985 expanded services to Jackson County, Wisconsin

  • In 1987 expanded services to Buffalo County, Wisconsin

  • In 1995 expanded services to Trempealeau County, Wisconsin

  • In 1997 expanded services to Monroe County, Wisconsin

  • In 2001 expanded services to Vernon County, Wisconsin

  • In 2002 expanded services to Rock County, Wisconsin

  • In 2016 expanded services to youth (ages 4-18) with disabilities

  • In 2017 rebranded from Riverfront Inc. to Aptiv

  • In 2020 expanded services to Walworth County, Wisconsin

Support us

It’s because of gifts to the Aptiv Foundation that children and adults with disabilities are reaching their goals.  It is only through the vision and generosity of contributions to the Aptiv Foundation that it becomes possible to provide the level of support each person needs and deserves. Contributions go to funding facility improvements, program equipment, and other tools to help people with disabilities live, learn and work in our communities. 

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