About Us

The Quiltmaker Cafe Founders & Directors, July 2022.  Front, left to right:  Brent Levy, Sera Cuni, Susan Hughes, and Bill Hartley. Back, left to right: Jennie Knowlton, Cody Marshall, Elizabeth Knowlton, Laraine Nicklaw, Jennifer Hedrick and David Knowlton
The Quiltmaker Cafe Founders & Directors, July 2022. Front, left to right: Brent Levy, Sera Cuni, Susan Hughes, and Bill Hartley. Back, left to right: Jennie Knowlton, Cody Marshall, Elizabeth Knowlton, Laraine Nicklaw, Jennifer Hedrick and David Knowlton

The Quiltmaker Café's Name

The Café name 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 those in need. 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 his "heart is full to bursting, filled with memories of all the happiness I've 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.

The Quiltmaker's Gift

The Quiltmaker Café is an official member of the national organization, One World Everybody Eats

In 2003, One World Everybody Eats began as a simple offering in a small café in Salt Lake City, UT. Owner Denise Cerreta noticed her patrons were struggling to make ends meet, and in what she describes as her ‘field of dreams’ experience, she decided to begin letting them pay what they could for their meals. She realized that one in six Americans—50 million people—are food insecure, meaning families and individuals are accessing emergency food pantries, even scavenging or stealing, to meet their nutrition needs. To address this issue, OWEE supports a model of pay-what-you-can Community Cafés that helps communities alleviate hunger at the local level. Since its inception, cafés around the world have implemented the OWEE business model, including Panera Bread and the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation for which Cerreta provided café opening guidance. Dozens of cafés are currently in development. Collectively, OWEE cafés have served almost 2 million meals, 30 percent of which are served to people of less means. Under OWEE’s business platform, each café is committed to serving appealing, nutritious, locally sourced meals with dignity to everyone while ultimately, changing communities and their perspective on hunger.

Visit OWEE for more info

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 15 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 Donate-What-You-Can Café of their own.  Since the summer of 2021, Elizabeth has lived in her dream city of Washington DC.  She works at the Smithsonian Asian Art Musuem and volunteers at the US Holocaust Museum, along with doing much of The Quiltmaker Cafe's digital work (social media, volunteer logging, fundraising, etc.) and visits as often as possible to help run a donate-what-you-can event booth or food truck!

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.



Jennie Knowlton (she/her), Executive Director:  Jennie is amazed at the support the Chatham community has shown for The Quiltmaker Café.

Jennie is a graduate of the 2022-23 Chatham Leadership program with the Chamber of Commerce and serves as a board member for both the Pittsboro Business Association and Professional Women of Chatham and Orange Counties.  She recently became a member of the Rotary Club of Pittsboro this year and graduated from the CCCC SBC Chatham SPARK Program this May.

She is also a regular volunteer at St. Bartholomew's Community Lunch, where she gets to spend the day with the people that continue to teach and inspire her every week.

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 CEO, Women in Trucking Association.

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), Secretary:  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 Café - 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 two children.


Denise B Carman (she/her), Director:  Denise B Carman (she/her) is a multigenerational Florida native who has called North Carolina home for the last 20 years, mostly in Chatham County.  She’s always had a passion for helping others and being an active participant in the community and believes the more diverse, inclusive and welcoming any community is, the more vibrant it is.

A self proclaimed customer service geek, Denise leads amazing teams of customer advocates for a data storage and services company in Research Triangle Park, NC.

When not working or volunteering, you’ll find her baking, hiking or cheering on her alma mater, University of Central Florida, or her NC team, NC State Wolfpack Women’s Basketball.

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.

Nam Douglass (she/her), Director: has been involved in community and development work since moving  to North Carolina in 1998. She began her career working in policy and rural economic development with nonprofit organizations across North Carolina in areas of small business and local leadership development.  Having always been drawn by the law she returned to school and graduated from Campbell Law in 2011.  She practices immigration law and has represented business and families in reaching their American dream.  Nam has been a volunteer at the Helen Wright Women’s shelter and served on several board in Wake County ranging from a focus on business development to supporting survivors of domestic violence and it excited to be part of the food world. When she is not working, Nam enjoys time hiking, practicing yoga, traveling and spending time with her family.

thumbnail (1)

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. 


Jean MacDonald (she/her), Director: Jean was a leader in the commercial insurance industry where she grew a small business into a multi-million dollar revenue producer representing many elite companies nationwide. She would later take that same brand of leadership and success to the well-known Mary Kay Cosmetics Company where her extraordinarily high sales volume and leadership, earned her the use of the company’s signature cars twelve times, five being their trophy “Pink Cadillac.” Today, Jean is a communication and business strategist, corporate sales trainer, speaker, and author. She is a Distinguished Toastmaster and a member of the National Speakers Bureau. She has published two books and has a new book coming out in the spring of 2024, “Be Wild, Be Crazy, Be You. Open Your Heart and Mind, and Feel the Confidence.” Jean has always been very involved in the community. Special Olympics raising over $250,000, Mary Kay Foundation (initiated two grants for halfway houses), Rainbows for All Children Worldwide (president of the women's organization) , Fresh Start Incubator (education and mentoring new companies) Founder of the Professional Women of Chatham and Orange counties, President of Pittsboro Toastmasters 2023 - 2024, Chatham County Chamber of Commerce (member and connector). Attending Quiltmaker events and getting others to participate. She is married to Greg. They live in North Carolina. They have three very successful children and seven grandchildren. She loves being with the family traveling and being at the beach, playing the Ukulele, so-so watercolorist, race car driving, Hydrow rowing and walking the dog.


The Quiltmaker Cafe's 

Community Advisory Committee

Melissa Beard Driver, Executive Director for Chatham Outreach Alliance (CORA)

Kelly Burton, Culinary Instructor at Central Carolina Community College (CCCC)

Sam Cahoon, Volunteer at St. Bartholomew's Community Lunch

Tych Cowdin, Executive Director for Communities in Schools of Chatham County

Lynn Dohner, Volunteer at St. Bartholomew's Community Lunch

Amy Gorely, Director of Community Relations for Carolina Meadows, Inc. & Executive Director of the Carolina Meadows Foundation

Karen Ladd,  Retired Lay Pastoral Leader at St. Bartholomew's Episcopal Church & Founder of Community Lunch

Larry Lee, Volunteer at St. Bartholomew's Community Lunch

Tonya Maness, Member of Pittsboro Rotary Club and Financial Advisor with ACERA Wealth Management

Anna Spears Tuell, Development Director for Chatham Habitat for Humanity

Helpful Links

OWEE, oneworldeverybodyeats.org
A Place at the Table in Raleigh NC, tableraleigh.org
F.A.R.M. Café in Boone NC, farmcafe.org

Follow us on Facebook and Instagram @quiltmakercafe

Powered by Launch Engine   -   Login
Scroll to Top