Volunteer Profile

Meet Denise Riley

Carol Wagner, Leader Correspondent

Photo by Carol Wagner Denise Riley makes the treats for the productions at the Mielke Arts Center. She is holding an pineapple upside-down cupcake that she will be serving during the run of “South Pacific.”

Denise Riley makes the treats for the productions at the Mielke Arts Center, which is presenting “South Pacific” over the next two weeks.

She was born in Janesville. Her family moved to Kendall when she was 6 months old. Riley graduated from Royall High School and pursued a political science major at the University of Wisconsin-Madison until she met her husband of 34 years, Daniel. They lived and worked in Madison for 20 years before moving to Shawano, where they have been for nearly 20 years.

Denise is the food services manager at Lutheran Social Services/Homme Home in Wittenberg, and Daniel works in Appleton for Presto Products. They have two grown children and live in Red River with their Alaskan pointer dog, Tucker.

Q Where do you volunteer?

A “I volunteer with the Mielke Arts Center Box in the Wood Theatre Guild. I am the president. I make concessions for the art and craft show and the Merry Mielke Craft Show in November. I am a member of the Crossroads Community Theatre in Wittenberg, the Shawano County Historical Society, the Shawano County Democrats and the Shawano Area Women’s Network.”

Q What are you doing for “South Pacific?”

A “I am helping Cheryl Folkerts with costumes and sets. I sewed the backdrop, re-designed costumes, contributed costumes and props. I found stuff that is appropriate for the show. I have been doing cupcakes for concessions for five years now. I try to match the flavor of the cupcakes to the show. For “South Pacific” I will have chocolate coconut cupcakes with chocolate buttercream, spiced banana cupcakes with brown butter rum buttercream, and pineapple upside-down cupcakes with whipped cream. I also help with ushering, taking tickets and cleanup. We can always use more help behind the scenes.”

Q Do you love to bake?

A “It’s been fun to make the cupcakes for the shows. I go into baking beast mode. I have a convection oven and can make a lot of cupcakes all at once. I make up to 12 different flavors. I’ve always loved to bake. My grandmother, Libby Riley, was the housemother and cook at fraternities at UW-Madison. My mom was a good cook. I’m the oldest of nine.”

Q What do you do for the other places you volunteer?

A “At Crossroads Community Theatre, I help them out with costumes and acting. I love the acting part. I’m a past board member of the Shawano County Historical Society. I help with Rhubarb Fest and as a docent at the Kast House. I’ve done baking for other events and made pies for the ice cream social. I’m a volunteer for the Democratic Party. Sometimes I bring snacks for the meetings. I’ve been a member since I was 15 years old.”

Q Why do you volunteer?

A “I have to bake and I can’t eat everything I make. I like to bake and make people happy with the things I bake. Somebody’s got to eat all this baked stuff. I’m always trying something new.”


WHAT: “South Pacific”

WHEN: 7 p.m. July 15 and July 20-22, 2 p.m. July 16 and July 23

WHERE: Mielke Arts Center, N5649 Airport Road, Shawano

ADMISSION: $12 adults, $7 children.