COMMUNITY HEROES: A treasured cook giving life lessons with every bite

Community Heroes

BLOUNTVILLE, Tenn. (ABC Tri-Cities) Known for her infectious smile and warm spirit, Stephanie Salcedo is treasured by the young boys and staff at Sullivan House.

In this week’s Community Hero segment, we take you to Blountville, where she reigns over the kitchen, bringing life lessons with every bite.

When you enter the sullivan house – you’ll usually find this room filled with doe-eyed, young boys.

“We work with high-risk youth in a group home setting to return them to home,” Sullivan House residential manager, Scott Jeffers said.

However, if you go even further, into the kitchen, you will find what keeps them coming back.

Jeffers said, “I’ve had several kids that I will just take them in the back, and we get a plate and then I can check in on them and kind of keep contact and even after they’ve left here sometimes a year or two afterwards.”

He said the boys look forward to working with her so much that the staff has to space out time so that everyone gets a chance to learn from and help Stephanie.

“She is infectious. She makes everyone laugh, she makes the kids and the staff feel at ease,” Jeffers said. “She goes out with boys, she takes them on outing. She works online with them, she drives the van, she takes them to the park.”

Described as a “gem”, Stephanie Salcedo cooks for the entire staff and boys of the group home. She takes pride in making her food from scratch.

“When they come in, you don’t expect to come to a placement like this and have the quality of food she prepares, and she pays attention to them,” Jeffers said. “She takes care of the staff who are taking care of the kids. She keeps us all kind of running smoothly.” 05

The boys have learned a thing or two, for when they eventually return home.

Salcedo said, “They ask for recipes and they go, ‘Oh, can you give me the recipe so I can cook this for my mom, or for my girlfriend?'”

She has sort of become their second mother.

“Much as like, we like to spend time in the kitchen with our own moms, learning how to cook things, spend time and talking, it’s a way for them to achieve some kind of normalsy or to feel special,” Jeffers said. “Stephanie not only teaches them how to cook but that builds confidence, that shows them that the kitchen is not an intimidating place.”

Salcedo said working with these boys has been an eye-opening experience because she usually works with toddlers.

“To have them come in here and learn about food and eat really good food, and have an abundance of stuff that ordinarily they might not have, it’s awesome,” Salcedo said.

She also cooks for Frontier Health and the Link House.

“If that gives them a little bit of motivation to do something in the future with themselves, that is ultimately what my goal would be,” Salcedo said.

If you know of a community hero in the Tri-Cities, nominating someone is easy.

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