by Kristi Maier

| @TriadFoodies

The fellowship that comes from food is one thing that makes eating such an enjoyable experience. Sometimes it’s just with your love or friends. Often it’s family. And sometimes, it is just the thing you need. And we recently discovered just that at the SECU Family House in Winston-Salem. It’s not a place where you and I would just go to dine. But it is a place where you and I can give a dining experience to others and it stands out locally as a place that defines the word “hospitality.”

The SECU Family House has been described as a “Ronald McDonald House” for adults. It does all the things that a hospital hospitality house does. It provides a place to stay for patients or their families during hospital stays and treatments. It came to Winston-Salem courtesy of Beth and Sandy Baldwin, who stayed at a hospitality house for four months in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania while their son, Branner, was being treated for melanoma.

Branner lost his battle with cancer, but his parents realized that Winston-Salem needed such a place and began the planning and the task of fundraising. The State Employees’ Credit Union has established hospitality houses in select communities as one of its causes. And the Reynolds Foundation also provided funding.

How it works:

Adult patients or their families who are residents outside of Forsyth County are referred by the hospital. The family house provides all the comforts of home. Each “suite” has its own bathroom and sleeping quarters. There’s WiFi, community kids area, laundry room and even a library. Families have their own food lockers downstairs in the pantry to keep some personal snacks. Patients make up about 20% of the guests, while their family members make up the remainder. Guests are asked to pay $35 per room, if they can provide it.

But the magic is at mealtime. Every Sunday through Thursday, dinner is provided at the home. And just like any home, the kitchen is the heart of it. And when it’s mealtime, it’s full of volunteers and happy cooks who’ve either prepared a meal on-site or they are bringing it in from their own homes. It really is a sight to behold. From neighborhood associations to church groups, women’s organizations or just a group of friends, it’s all wonderful, happy “¦well, chow. Even some restaurants are contributing. The Bagel Station provides fresh bagels twice a week.

Starbucks cooks once a month onsite with various theme nights. Longhorn Steakhouse cooks quarterly. Friday night is Papa Murphy’s Take ‘N’ Bake Pizza night. Even some children’s groups (with adult supervision) come in to bake a special batch of ginger cookies, to help with any queasy tummies in the midst. And of course, more groups or restaurants are welcome to get in on the cooking fun. Breakfast isn’t off the table either””pun intended.

Lisa Northrop, Community Relations Manager, says suppertime is truly comforting for the guests. “We’ve had residents who’ve come here after spending a day at the hospital. They don’t feel like going out to eat. They don’t feel like cooking. But a kitchen that has hot, delicious food and tables of people sharing the meal together is really comforting,” she says. “Our guests appreciate the volunteers and it creates a positivity that’s contagious.”

Coming on March 5, 2016, SECU Family House will be holding a signature event, “Men Who Cook,” an amateur men’s cooking competition featuring local dignitaries and who’s who. !

WANNA GET involved?

Wanna get involved? Volunteer groups, organizations or businesses are invited to visit SECU Family House’s website at for more information and to sign-up. Or you can call (336) 793-2822.