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2022 May Volunteer Spotlight: Denise Mercuri


By Kim French, Director of Resource Centers

Congratulations to Denise Mercuri who has been awarded GSNI’s Volunteer Spotlight for May 2022!

Denise has been volunteering with Girl Scouts for 14 years in a variety of roles, including troop leader, Potawatomi Service Unit’s Events Coordinator, Service Unit Day Camp Director, and as one of the Girl Scout TNT (Try New Things) Older Girl Activity Club Leaders. Denise, along with a few other volunteers from both Potawatomi and Winnebago Service Units worked together to create this Activity Club to offer more opportunities for older Girl Scouts. Denise was not a Girl Scout growing up, but she is a proud Lifetime Member and was honored in 2016 as a recipient of GSUSA’s Volunteer of Excellence Award.

GSNI’s Product Program Manager, Michele Doonan, and I, Kim French, Director of Resource Centers co-nominated Denise for this award, stating, “She is fully invested in the Girl Scout Way, as Denise and Girl Scouts seem to go hand-in-hand. Whether it be planning service unit events and day camp, mentoring older Girl Scouts through their Highest Awards projects (even creating a new Service Unit Gold Award Recognition event), making plans to travel to National Convention, or simply hanging out with her adult Girl Scout friends, Girl Scouts has been a big part of her life. Even after her daughter graduated high school, Denise has continued to be involved.”

“Additionally, Denise took an interest in engaging graduates heading to college to stay connected with Girl Scouts and to assist with their TNT Activity Club as adult members. She has pursued being a Council Delegate and has been helpful to our staff as we prepare to hopefully start a Campus Girl Scouts program at McHenry County College. Denise is a wonderful volunteer and asset to our GSNI organization. Michele and I are thankful for the opportunity to have gotten to know and work with her in our past years as her service unit’s Member Support Specialist.”

When asked to share her favorite volunteer memories, Denise explained, “It’s the ‘aha!’ moments and growth moments. The times I have seen super shy girls sell at a cookie booth, even after hearing ‘no’ after ‘no’ after ‘no’. Seeing the girls who were afraid to share their opinions at the beginning of our day camp prep meetings, who then lead a unit or station. Watching some get knocked down physically, emotionally, or mentally, then watching them pick themselves up to keep going. I am so blessed to have been a part of all those moments.”

Regarding the Three Processes (girl-led, learn by doing, cooperative learning), Denise noted, “Our Service Unit Day Camp, my Girl Scout troop (now graduated), and our TNT group is as close to 100% girl-led as possible. The Girl Scouts give suggestions on what they want to learn, experience, and teach, and we make it happen with them. If we cannot make it work due to time, money, or COVID constraints for example, then we try and find a compromise that honors their original suggestions.”

When asked how volunteering has brought meaning to her, Denise replied, “It has been a great way to spend time with my children (my son has been a tag-along at many events and outings and still is). As a low-income family, Girl Scouts opened up opportunities for all of us to try new things, go new places, and to just experience things outside of our comfort zone. I got to know friends and their families beyond just school outings. My girls graduated over two years ago, and I still see them in person, talk to them on the phone, and keep in touch over social media. The time we spent together over the years having fun and learning so much really did create bonds for which I am so grateful.”

Denise commented, “Originally, I volunteered with Girl Scouts so my daughter could experience it all. We all know without adult volunteers we have no troops. I am still here because I believe in the Movement. I have seen what Girl Scouts has brought to my daughter, my family, my troop, and my community.”

“My advice to other Girl Scout volunteers and parents?” Denise says. “It would be to enjoy the time with Girl Scouts, go to every event that you are able, go camping, travel near and far, and try all of the badges. Just have fun and enjoy your time!”

Thank you, Denise, for your dedication and wonderful contributions!

GSNI wishes to thank Patty Donahue and Image Awards Engraving and Creative Keepsakes in Geneva for providing the beautiful tile trivet awards for our Volunteer Spotlight Program.