The Quiltmaker Café Origin
The Café was inspired by a children’s book that our daughter, Elizabeth, brought home from kindergarten, almost 20 years ago. It beautifully tells the story of a greedy king that MUST have everything, including one of the priceless quilts that a quiltmaker makes only for the needy members of the village. The quiltmaker convinces the king to give all of his possessions away as gifts, until he, himself, is in need. As the story progresses and the king finally receives his quilt, he declares that he does not need anything at all because he has become rich with the memories of happiness that he has given and received during his journey. He spends the rest of his days helping the quiltmaker deliver quilts to those in need. Our family has never forgotten this message.
We will need the whole community, including you, as we work to bring food stability to everyone around us. If you would like to donate to help us care for others, we would greatly appreciate it!
The Quiltmaker Café is an official 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.
The Café Founders: Jennie, David & Elizabeth Knowlton
Jennie struggled with food insecurity at many different points in her young life. She knows what it means to have an empty pantry and to have her family anxiously waiting for the next payday. One of the best jobs as a young adult was working in a restaurant, because a meal would be included with every shift. After meeting David and starting a family, food insecurity seemed to be a thing of the past, but looking back, she’s realized that it would have only taken a small tilt of the scales to change all of that. Her favorite things are reading historical fiction and horror, birdwatching and being “Aunt Jennie” to 13 of her siblings’ children & grandchildren.
David grew up without knowing food insecurity firsthand. While not affected by financial hardships himself, his parents instilled the values of community and helping others at a very young age. When his mother was growing up, she witnessed many community and family members hurt by poverty, so she encouraged her children to do all that they could for their own communities, and he has vivid memories of volunteering at soup kitchens as soon as he was old enough to help. David became a commercial window cleaner at 19 years old and enjoys problem solving and meeting with customers. He is a fan of the Hurricanes hockey team, fishing and recently tried (and did well) at both woodworking and painting during the pandemic.
Elizabeth has always had the privilege of a secure family and providing parents. While stories were told about times being tougher and less financially secure during her younger years, it is not a struggle that she remembers. However, despite her privilege, her parents, David and Jennie, always taught her to be understanding of everyone’s unique, personal situation and to be the most kind and helpful person possible. She grew up reading stories like “The Quiltmaker’s Gift” and watching her parents use their time and eventual resources to help strangers and friends in need around every corner. Elizabeth attended Appalachian State University to study Post-Conflict Resolution, the process of building community between opposing and oppressed groups of people. While living in Boone, she spent much of her time volunteering in the area, including at F.A.R.M. Café. During the Shelter-in-Place order of 2020, she saw how fragile even the most stable families actually were. So, when asked, she encouraged her family to start a Pay-What-You-Can Café of their own.
Jennie, David, and Elizabeth are all avid dog lovers, escape room players and love going to concerts together. They made a joint, life-changing decision during the fall/winter of the Covid pandemic in 2020. With the support and knowledge of One World Everybody Eats and similar cafes, The Quiltmaker Café began its journey in February 2021.
Meet Our Board Members
Jennifer Hedrick (she/her), President: Jennifer has a long-term professional and personal commitment to working with nonprofit organizations. She’s passionate about developing and shepherding organizations, whether in their infancy or in a phase of reorganization.
Jennifer has served in a range of executive leadership roles for various national and international non-profit organizations and currently serves as Vice President, Association Solutions, for MCI USA.
In addition to her volunteer work with The Quiltmaker Café, she is a member of the Bridgewater College Alumni Association Board of Directors as well as the College’s Presidential Advisory Council. She also volunteers for several organizations in her local community.
Jennifer lives in the Washington, DC area and often can be found on the local bicycle trails or experiencing live theater.
Susan Hughes (she/her), Secratary: Susan lives in Greensboro, NC, where she is enjoying her recent retirement from a 34-year teaching career. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Susan has established deep roots in North Carolina since moving there in 1981. As soon as she arrived, she transferred her membership in the Junior Women’s Club, a service-based organization, and immediately became active in Greensboro’s community. She served for many years on the Board of Greensboro Urban Ministry, which included heading up the Church World Service’s annual CROP Walk fundraiser for several years, which raises money for and awareness of hunger at home and abroad. She also partnered with the Lutheran Family Services of North Carolina early on, taking a leadership role in helping to welcome and resettle to Greensboro 200 Montagnard refugees from the Central Highlands in Vietnam. Susan’s other involvements include working for the Family Life Council, volunteering with Habitat for Humanity, volunteering with A Simple Gesture, an organization whose mission is to wipe out hunger for children in Guilford County, being an active member in both Mt. Pisgah United Methodist Church and Grace Community Church where she has held numerous leadership roles in outreach addressing poverty, hunger, race, children with parents in prison, and prison ministries. Susan considers the Christian call to service, and to love one another, to be a driving force in her life. Blessed with a comfortable life and family and friends who have always supported her, she has a true heart for those who have not been as fortunate. She is thrilled to be a part of the Board for The Quiltmaker’s Cafe - especially since one of its Founders is also a beloved student of hers from the 1990’s.
Cody Marshall (he/him), Treasurer: Cody is the Chief of Community Strategy for the national non-profit, The Recycling Partnership. After managing Orange County, North Carolina’s Recycling Program, he became a consultant for the sustainability and recycling firm, RRS, where he was part of the team that started the largest recycling non-profit in the U.S. There he sees firsthand how mission driven non-profits can make a difference in communities across the country. Cody has a Masters in Public Administration and a passion for building happy, healthy, and resilient communities. He lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina with his wife and daughter.
Sera Cuni (she/her), Director: Born in Trumbull, Conn., Sera grew up in a family of self-taught cooks who enthusiastically embraced their Italian and Czech heritages. Her childhood is filled with kitchen memories: Draping handmade pastas rolled out by her grandparents’ expert hands over the backs of dining room chairs, stirring pots of garlicky tomato sauce until simmered to perfection, and creaming butter and cottage cheese for flaky Kolacky cookies at Christmastime. For the Cuni family, such traditions, including sharing home-cooked meals together every evening, were the necessary ingredients for an abundant life. The bonding experiences also helped pave the way for Sera’s career. Although a talented athlete who excelled at soccer, Sera’s interest took a significant swing thanks to Saturday mornings with her father, who first introduced her to Julia Child and her cooking shows on PBS. After attending Green Mountain College in Vermont on a soccer scholarship, Sera took her passion for food and cooking back to Connecticut, where she graduated from culinary school. Over the course of her career, Sera has worked as a chef at Main and Hopewell, Americus on the Wharf, and Pastis all in Connecticut; at the Fearrington House Inn in Chapel Hill, and Nordstrom’s Café in Durham. In 2006, Sara Foster hired her as a chef and kitchen manager for the Foster’s Market Chapel Hill (The Root Cellar) restaurant. She was promoted to general manager in 2008. She and her wife Susan purchased the Chapel Hill location in January 2013, and recently opened a second location in Pittsboro. Sera still considers Sara Foster a mentor and as such abides by her primary food ethic—that great food doesn’t have to be fancy.
Bill Hartley (he/him), Director: Bill was born in Westwood, NJ, and while raised north of the Mason-Dixon Line, Chef Hartley has always had a southern soul. Growing up in Northern Jersey and working on a local farm as a young boy inspired his love for fresh and local ingredients. Cooking since he was 12 years old, Chef Hartley is a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America and boasts over 20 years of experience in kitchens in North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and the Caribbean. Chef Hartley specializes in incorporating locally grown ingredients, with his passion for fresh seafood, and opened The Postal Fish Company in 2017, based on these ideals. He resides in Pittsboro where he enjoys hunting and fishing in the country setting of his own backyard. He also has an interest in community involvement within the town of Pittsboro by volunteering for Pittsboro Main Street Events, while also participating in Local On Main Dinners. He has been a board member for the Quiltmaker Cafe since January 2022.
Brent Levy (he/him), Director: Brent is the pastor, convener, and curator of The Local Church, a United Methodist Faith Community in Chatham County. Originally from a suburb of Richmond, Virginia, Brent is married to his wife Natalie, and they have two amazing kids: Emma and Eliza. Brent attended James Madison University and helped start RISE, a United Methodist Faith Community for disconnected and marginalized young adults and college students. An ordained elder in The United Methodist Church, Brent graduated from Duke Divinity School in 2015 and served for three years as Associate Pastor at Christ United Methodist Church in Chapel Hill. He's passionate about storytelling, finding the sacred in the mundane, and co-creating a world where all have belonging.
Laraine Nicklaw (she/her), Director: Laraine grew up with a stable family life. Although not experiencing hardship firsthand, she was influenced by parents and educators, who valued looking out for those less fortunate. This led her to a career in social work and later to getting certified as a health coach. Due to her passion for health/wellness, she is particularly concerned about healthy food options for the food insecure. She has volunteer experience with Hospice, food banks, indigent medical clinics, and the special needs population. She loves reading, gardening, and parenting her two children.
Chris Reid (she/her), Director: Chris has been involved in local development since she moved to Durham after graduating from UNC Chapel Hill. She is connected in the food world through her work with local food site Carpe Durham. She is also well versed in Chatham County after serving as the street team coordinator for the Shakori HIlls Music Festival for years. She now serves as the Vice President of Brand for a fast-growing, life-improving sweat solutions company called Carpe. She lives in Durham with her husband, daughter, dog, and two cats.