Comfort, food found in hospital cafeteria

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Deontrae Collins


Monday, May 6, 2019

If you’ve never met Deontrae “Trae” Collins, you’re missing out.

Collins, 24, is a full-time food associate working in the Courtyard Café, the main cafeteria and dining room at Nash UNC Health Care. His joyful and friendly personality envelop the eating area with a positive vibe that offers comfort while eating good food.

“I help prepare and serve the food, but it’s understood that part of my job is to lift the spirits of others and offer a gesture of kindness to everyone that walks through these door,” Collins said.

Mary Jeffreys, one of Collins’ supervisors in Food & Nutrition Serivces, says Collins has a joyful spirit that he shares with others.

“I don’t know what we’d do without him,” Jeffreys said. “Trae is such a good person and is a friendly face to everyone — hospital employees, families of patients and us that work in food services.”

Jeffreys says she knows how in a hospital setting, being kind to someone can go a long way.

“Having a loved one in the hospital can be a stressful thing,” she said. “We offer food and Trae offers some comfort with his good attitude toward everyone.”

Collins said he feels a responsibility to offer compassion to families he sees coming into the Courtyard Café, the main cafeteria and dining room for a respite from stressful experiences upstairs with a sick or hurt family member.

“I’ve seen the breakdowns, looking numb and people that just seem so stressed out,” Collins said. “I can’t solve their problems, but I help them the best I can. I try to make them smile or laugh.”

Collins says while visiting the cafeteria won’t solve medical problems, it can help. Like a balm, a good meal and a friendly face can offer a small moment of relief, making it easier to go upstairs and face the stress of a loved one in the hospital.

“I just believe that showing others you care, whether if it’s with a smile, a joke or a little conversation, is important,” Collins said “We’re all family, right?”

Spending a short time in the Courtyard Café, the main cafeteria and dining room will quickly illustrate Collins’ gifts for communication and friendliness. If he’s not being helpful serving food, chatting with a customer or helping out a co-worker, he’s interacting with employees who treat him like family. As Collins prepared to have his portrait taken to go with this story, several nurses were making sure he was camera-ready.

Collins has worked at Nash UNC Health Care for four years. He said he would like to go to school and expand his cooking skills.

“I’ve had supervisors tell me I should do that, go to the culinary school at Nash Community College. But so far, I don’t have time,” Collins said with a laugh.

He said he can’t imagine working anywhere other than Nash UNC Health Care for now.

“And I know I’ll always want to work somewhere that I interact with people, hoping to make their day a little better,” he said.

For now, Collins is content to work alongside his Nash UNC Health Care family, making his small part of the world better. One smile at a time.