Ask Dawn Mariscal about her volunteer work, and the conversation could easily take an hour.
It’s not that she’s eager to share the information; she comes across as somewhat shy and completely humble. In fact, she keeps deferring to all of the “other people” who are also involved in various activities, during the interview.
It’s just that she’s involved in so much.
The 45-year Menomonee Falls native and downtown business owner was nominated by a family friend for the honor of Menomonee Falls Patch's Person of the Year for 2012. She was chosen out of a strong field of contenders for her extensive volunteer work, especially with children and families.
“Dawn has volunteered on so many levels in Menomonee Falls,” said Ann Oelerich, who nominated Mariscal. “She is amazing.”
Helped Organized Holiday Program for Children
For starters, she’s heavily involved in the Optimist Club of Menomonee Falls. In that capacity, she helped organize and run a free holiday “drop and shop” event this year that drew 107 children. The children saw Santa Claus, had story ime with Mrs. Claus, made gifts for family members in a craft room and performed other activities while their parents shopped.
“It’s all about giving back,” Mariscal says. “It takes a lot of people.”
The event, which started last year, is growing.
“Two years ago one of our club members said, ‘We really need to do something for families during the holidays,’” she recalled. “I was on the board of directors at the time, and I said, ‘What about we organize an event to take care of kids?’ Christmas can be a hard time. Families can have hardships.”
Mariscal said she became involved in volunteer work after watching her daughter grow up.
“My daughter is already 20. For me, I love the little kids and seeing the joys on their face. That’s what makes it all worthwhile. As my daughter got older, I got more involved in community activities.”
She also helps organize an oratorical contest for the elementary through high school age students for the Optimist Club.
And, she helps organize the Distinguished Young Woman program in Menomonee Falls, which used to be Junior Miss.
“It’s a high school scholarship program,” she said. “I just got back from the first rehearsal.”
An Active Member of Business Community
As a downtown business owner of Mariscal Insurance, she also helped organize a festival of trees event in a little park at the corner of Main Street and Appleton Avenue. “Seven businesses participated. We decorated Christmas trees and brightened up the corner,” she said.
She's also involved in the Village Centre's Chilly Fest celebration in February.
“We try to help the businesses and keep them involved in the community. Personally, I don’t do it for any recognition and gain. In the past year, I was awarded the Optimist Club’s president award for leadership and devoted service, and I cried," she said. "I like to stay in the background and planning, but I don’t necessarily always like the limelight. There are so many people involved in pulling activities off.”
What’s her motivation? “The driving force for me is trying to provide atmospheres for children where they can feel accepted. Everyone has a place and belongs somewhere," Mariscal said.
She used to be too shy to stand in front of a group, until she watched her daughter, Montana, participate in a middle school play. As she watched her daughter excel on stage, she gained confidence to become more involved herself.
“I saw her grow as a person and, as she came out of her shell, I found myself coming out of my shell,” she said. “That’s what I would like to see for all children.”
Her daughter is now pursuing a theater degree at Carroll University.
Village Gives Her 'Sense of Peace'
Mariscal was born and raised in Falls, and she lives in the same house her parents raised her in.
“I like the community,” she said. “It is my comfort zone, and it is a community that is very accepting.”
Living in the Falls gives her “a sense of peace.”
Runners-up for the Patch Person of the Year honor in the Falls are Lynn Zindl, David and Annie Haasis, Randy Ryan and Jesse Piering.