A smile. Positive energy. A good word to say about everyone. The human Energizer Bunny.

If you’ve had the pleasure of working with, or even just spending time with Sheila Jenkins, you know she is one of the great people in this world. She is someone to admire but also someone to learn from as a mentor and life coach.

Jenkins is a member of Trade Show Carpenters Local 491 of the Eastern Atlantic States Regional Council and, in fact, will celebrate her 10th anniversary on Jan. 1, 2024. It’s her third career, following 20 years in the U.S. Army and 30 years as a nurse.

She became a trade show carpenter in 2014 after retiring from nursing because, she said, she had a passion for working with her hands. She wanted to experience the joy of building, following in the footsteps of her uncle who was a long-time builder in the Washington, D.C., area.

“I love the creativity I’m a part of at Local 491,” said Jenkins. “I love the building, the final result, the rush of putting up a show during the five-day inbound, being proud of putting it all together and then taking it all down during the two-day outbound, and getting ready for the next show.”

Her peers recognize Jenkins as a terrific teammate, someone who brings a smile to work each day without fail. She sets high standards for doing a job properly and safely, while at the same time offering her less-experienced colleagues a sounding board, providing both technical advice and emotional support.

“Sheila is exemplary. She’s a hard worker, bubbly, always has a smile,” said Juaquin Duff, who serves as council representative business agent for the EAS Regional Council of Carpenters and works closely with Jenkins. “She embodies the type of member who wants people to succeed and do great work in a safe environment. She’s a bundle of positive energy.”

Jenkins’ leadership skills were evident early; she was promoted to a team lead as an apprentice, after being a member of Local 491 for just 18 months. The promotion was particularly notable because the apprenticeship program generally lasts three years before a member becomes a certified journeyperson carpenter, and Jenkins still had plenty to learn on the technical side of carpentry.

Jenkins said she believes her military background and her attention to doing things right help her stand out. She teaches her fellow carpenters to imagine each show as theirs and to treat it as their own property.

Being a woman in a predominantly male trade has never been an issue for Jenkins, she said, and she is proud that Local 491 is a place where everyone – male, female, young, old, any level of education – can succeed.

When she’s not working as a trade show carpenter, Jenkins enjoys spending time with her three children, four grandchildren and her extended family. She loves camping, hiking/backpacking and riding bikes – both pedal bikes and motorcycles.

One beloved tradition is her family’s “fall festival,” an annual camping trip every Thanksgiving weekend. Everyone pitches tents on the water and enjoys the outdoors. Her mother still attends, as do her eight siblings, along with cousins and grandchildren. It’s a massive outdoor party.

Jenkins said she has no plans to retire and enjoys the flexibility being a trade show carpenter gives her.

“I have to think young. If I think old, I feel old, and I can’t have that,” she said. “I love what I do, so it’s not a job. That’s what I believe. Coming to work is like exercise for me – I get paid to exercise.”

Good luck trying to keep up.