When the pandemic forced the members of Kappa Guild into extended seclusion, their president, Sheila Scheinin Mentz, found a way to brighten their days through simple daily messages.
“I also, since COVID began, send out daily smiles (jokes, songs, etc. except Shabbat and holidays) to give everyone a chuckle to start the day,” said Mentz, 73, in an email. “Every other week, I send out the Kappa Connection with a poem and a calendar of events or activities that are or aren’t happening.”
Mentz is currently in her 10th consecutive year of serving as president of Kappa Guild, an organization that raises money for children’s health care needs. She has been involved since she was a young mother. Over the years, she worked her way up to her current position.
A resident of Baltimore County, Mentz attends services at both Beth Tfiloh Congregation and Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion. She lives with her husband, Mark, and has one son, Marshall, 46, who lives in Annapolis. Other organizations that Mentz has been involved with have included Federation of Jewish Women’s Organization of Maryland, the Beth Tfiloh Sisterhood and the Baltimore chapter of Hadassah.
Born in Baltimore, Mentz received a Hebrew education and had her bat mitzvah at the Shaarei Zion Center, today known as Bnai Jacob Shaarei Zion. She later attended the Hebrew Education Association High School before transferring to the Judaic Academy of Baltimore Hebrew University.
As Mentz was an only child, she gravitated toward babysitting and found she enjoyed working with children. She later received her B.S. in education in 1971, followed by a master’s of education in 1979, both from Towson University.
Mentz began her career teaching Hebrew school at Har Sinai Congregation, which has since merged to form Har Sinai-Oheb Shalom Congregation. She focused on older students and tutored them in their b’nai mitzvah lessons. In time, she spent 11 years as the educational director of Har Sinai’s religious school. She also spent time working for Baltimore County Schools, Shaarei Zion Day Care and Beth Tfiloh Nursery Camp, and found it rewarding to witness the love of learning her students exhibited, and to see her b’nai mitzvah students take their place on the bima for their big day.
In 1995, she received a B.A. in Judaic studies from Baltimore Hebrew University.
Mentz originally joined Kappa Guild at the suggestion of a friend who was already a member. As Mentz was raising a toddler at the time, she found that Kappa Guild’s mission of helping children in need — which includes raising money both for purchasing hospital equipment for pediatric units and for researching childhood diseases — resonated with her. The group’s welcoming nature also proved a draw, she said.
Becoming active on Kappa Guild’s committees, Mentz worked her way up the ladder to the role of president. In this position, she oversees Kappa Guild’s programs, runs its meetings and stays in touch with different hospitals about their needs. Hospitals order the items on their wish lists, and Kappa Guild reimburses them. The hospitals are also asked to purchase and place a plaque on the equipment they are reimbursed for, to help make Kappa Guild’s role in securing that equipment clear.
Mentz’s proudest accomplishments at Kappa Guild have included receiving an Unsung Hero Award for her work from the Association for Fundraising Professionals, Maryland Chapter, which she was nominated for by LifeBridge Health.
Additionally, Mentz said she is also proud to have seen the results of their funding in action.
In the past, Kappa Guild members have visited hospitals, camps and agencies to see the equipment they had helped fund. However, during the pandemic, that was no longer possible. Instead, Mentz asked these organizations to take Kappa Guild on virtual tours to see what their work had accomplished.
“This was new to many of them and a new learning experience,” Mentz said. “So once a month at our virtual meetings, we would ‘go on a tour’ and see our equipment or items with our plaques on them and in use.”
Mentz also said it meant a great deal to see “how grateful and appreciative the doctors, nurses and administrators are with the items that we give them, no matter how much or how little and the letters of thanks from the children, themselves.”
4/5/22 10:29 a.m. Update: This article was updated to clarify Mentz’s involvement in the local Jewish community and her background.