Exemplary Service Award Winners

2011 - Jo Ann Gill

Starting in 2011 The UCQF began recognizing individuals who have given unselfishly in support of the quilt festival

2012 - Judy Roberson

2013 - Barbara Tolleson

2014 - Nancy Pardue

2015 - Betty Robinson

    For 22  years, Jo Ann Gill has been involved in the festival, which is the main fundraiser for the Algood Senior Center. Her love of quilts has been the source of her hobby and a thriving business. She has bought and sold quilts for well over 25 years, restoring many that needed repair. Her knowledge of fabrics and age and quality of quilts have been a valuable asset for the quilt festival and quilt lovers.

     In the early years of the festival, antique shops and businesses would set up vignettes to display their merchandise and use quilts to highlight the display. Being in the antique business, she jumped right in to participate in that venue of the show. She can give a lecture about the history and art of quilting, do a "bed quilt turning," telling stories of the quilts, sell tickets and produce award-winning quilts to display in the quilt show.

    "I'm not a big quilter," Gill said. "I have quilted about eight to 10 quilts. My children have those now." 

Growing up, she watched her grandmother quilt a number of quilts, and her children have done the same with her. 

"They have been interested, as they've watched me over the years quilt," she said.
It's an art, she agrees, and takes time, patience and dedication.

    And considering she has sold and displayed a number of quilts throughout the country, she has seen different patterns.

"Kentucky has some beautiful quilts featured," she noted. "It's fun to go all around and see the different ones."

     As for being honored, she is very appreciative of the award.

"I found out a few weeks ago that I got it," she said. "As long as I'm up and moving and the good Lord willing, I'll be volunteering at the festival."


    Betty has been on the Upper Cumberland Quilt Festival board for ten years, and has even recruited her husband, Russ, to help out by hanging quilts for the displays.    She looks forward to the festival every year & seeing the results of the hard work of other quilters in the area.

    Betty Chairs receiving, judging and hanging of all the quilts in competition each year at the Festival. She recruits volunteers to assist and her husband Russ even made many of the stands that are used for hanging the quilts for the show.

    “I started embroidery back when I was 8 or 10 years old. I’d pick up my mother’s stuff when she’d have to go to the kitchen to cook and she couldn’t see what I was doing in the living room, so I would put some stitches in. She may have taken them out, I don’t know,”she chuckled.

    From that early start, she kept learning as she grew, and when she married, she used her talents to make clothes for her daughter. Once her daughter outgrew the desire for homemade clothes, Robinson joined a quilt guild and continued learning. Then, in 1994, she and her family moved to Tennessee, and she immediately joined the Cookeville Crazy Quilters.

    These days, she keeps busy with the Golden Needles quilting guild in Gainesboro, working on pieces for family and friends, and working on prayer quilts for her church, Washington Avenue Baptist, to give to those in need of comfort.

    “I think people are surprised that people still quilt. People tell me it’s a dying art. "It’s not a dying art. Now, a lot of us don’t do the artsy quilts, we still do the old patterns, but we’re still quilting up a storm.”

     Judy Roberson's appreciation of quilts began when she was just a child. "At the age of seven, my mother quilted a doll quilt made from material from my friends' and cousins' dresses, set together with pink and white checked fabric," she said. "This quilt was my first bedspread and has been on my bed now for 60 years. I had no idea that mother could quilt and was so proud of her. Mom let me cut out my own squares to make a nine patch quilt too. It was my first and last. I couldn't stand sitting still for so long."

    Though not a quilter herself, ahe said, ."I call myself a connoisseur of quilts. Tennessee history, log homes and antiques had always been obsessions, so quilts and woven coverlets fit in perfectly."

    Roberson works at the Upper Cumberland Development District as an Older Americans Act Program specialist and quality assurance specialist. She previously worked with the senior centers, helping Tolleson, the then-director of the Algood Senior Citizen Center, to create the first Upper Cumberland Quilt Festival. "You can imagine how excited I was when Barbara Tolleson said she wanted to do a quilt show in Algood as a fundraiser for the senior center where she was the director," she said. "My job as a monitor and advisor to the network of 20 senior centers in our 14 counties for the past 28 years has allowed me to assist in a variety of unique projects; however, the Algood Quilt Show is my favorite.

    Roberson became a frequent volunteer for the event and her service is being formally recognized this year. She is only the second person ever to be given the award -- the first being JoAnn Gill last year.

    "My role has been to do whatever needed to be done from hanging quilts, serving as guide on the homes tour, exhibiting family quilts to driving the bus," Roberson said. "I have loved being a small part of this wonderful community event which brings so many people together."

    The Silver Anniversary Upper Cumberland Quilt Festival is dedicated to Barbara Tolleson as a tribute to her leadership for the past 25 years. Not only is Barbara receiving the Exemplary Service Award this year but a special exhibition of her personal quilt collection has been staged.

    The Board of the Upper Cumberland Quilt Festival and the Board of the Algood Senior Citizen Center express sincere thanks and appreciation to Barbara for her outstanding community spirit and desire to be of service to others.

    Barbara’s appreciation of quilts began when she was a child. She has loved quilts all her life. As the Director of the Algood Senior Citizen Center when a fundraising project needed to be organized a Quilt Festival was a natural. She organized the first one, and has served on the Board every year since and today she serves as Chairman of the Board. Barbara talents and skills have focused on restoring quilts. Over the years she has purchased many quilts in need of repair and beautifully restored them.

    Nancy Pardue has been selected by the Board to receive the 2014 Exemplary Service Awards and to have a special exhibition of her quilts and needlework. Nancy is an exceptional needlework artist whose work is well known nationally. Her creativity in her needlework and quilting designs has won her many awards. She has been an outstanding supporter of the Upper Cumberland Quilt Festival since it’s early beginning

    The Board of the Upper Cumberland Quilt Festival Salutes Nancy for outstanding service and support.

Melinda West Bilbrey, lifelong quilt collector, has served on the Quilt Festival Board for the past 15 years and has been Chair of the Algood Senior Citizen Center Board for the past 12 years. Melinda’s love of quilts comes from family members who were quilters and quilt collectors. Her Aunt Nola Mae Needham was instrumental in instilling a love of quilts in Melinda as a young person. Melinda’s Mom and Grandmothers also contributed to her love of quilts. Melinda gives so willingly of her time and talents to several different charities. She serves on the Board of Alzheimer’s Tennessee and the Community Health Ministry. She is on the Advisory Board of the Area Agency on Aging and Disabilities. She and her family attend Trinity Assembly in Algood. Her workplace (Masters’ Healthcare now Signature HealthCARE of Putnam County) was brought into the quilt show in an important way because of Melinda. Not only do they contribute financially, but they display quilts of staff and families of residents in their dining room as part of the quilt show tour. Melinda serves as Chaplain at Signature and brings a sense of comfort and peace to residents and their families. Her sense of humor and exceptional talent for relating and working with people is invaluable to the Quilt Board as they work together all year to plan the quilt show. Melinda has an extensive collection of family quilts & quilts she has purchased from several sources including Jo Ann Gill, Barbara Tolleson, Janice West, and others.

2017 Exemplary Award Winner Melinda Bilbrey