Remembering Walter Cason

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 In memory of our dear friend Walter

Walter1 copyWalter Cason was the most humble person you would ever have the chance to meet. He loved his family, adored his grandchildren, and was a voracious reader. Never would you know that our friend Walter was a theologian, missionary, source of inspiration for Desmond Tutu, and technology guru.

Dr. John Walter Cason passed away peacefully on November 3, 2014, at Carolina Meadows. A memorial service and celebration of Dr. Cason’s life was attended by family and friends at the Church of Reconciliation on December 6, 2014.

Walter Cason grew up in East Texas and was ordained in the Methodist Church. He obtained a Master of Divinity Degree from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. Walter was a Methodist missionary helping to reestablish Cuttington College near Gbanga, Liberia. He earned his Ph.D. from Union Theological Seminary while serving as a missionary and nourished his life-long passion for education and exploring new fields of study.

Walter later became a member of the Evangelical Theological Seminary faculty in Naperville, Illinois, which later became the Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in 1974. He was remembered as an explorer of the new politics of liberation theology and the transformative role of church teachings.

After more than a decade in Liberia, Walter joined the staff of the Theological Education Fund of the World Council of Churches, working out of New York City and London to support theological education in Africa. His work led him to travel throughout the African continent supporting seminaries and churches working for social justice.

With his wife, Mary Smithies Cason of Bradford, England, he spent a sabbatical year in Zimbabwe on a research project. He later returned to teach for a semester at the University of Zimbabwe.

Walter and Mary retired to Chapel Hill in 1994 and immediately entered a new life of volunteer service working with the Orange County Rape Crisis Center. Walter served as Treasurer on the Board of Directors and later as a member of the Finance Committee. He also volunteered at Eyes, Ears, Nose and Paws, a local organization that trains and places service dogs.

Both Walter and Mary have been longtime supporters of the Church of Reconciliation. For several years, Walter served on the church’s Finance Committee and also as chair for the Social Justice Committee.

We will remember Walter for his wonderful smile, wise cracks, and commitment to helping others. Our thoughts are with Mary, his children, extended family, and friends.


Supporter Spotlight: Sonna Loewenthal

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“I truly believe that the Center’s programs help armor children against child sexual abuse and bullying and provide the words and process for them to disclose ongoing or past abuse.”

“I truly believe that the Center’s programs help armor children against child sexual abuse and bullying and provide the words and process for them to disclose ongoing or past abuse.”

Sonna Loewenthal has worn many hats at the Center. She has acted as a Board member, a Community Educator, and chair of the Nominating and Personnel Committees. Through all her different positions, Sonna has offered the Center invaluable support. We would like to both thank her and highlight her experiences at the Center.

After hearing positive reviews of the Center, Sonna decided to give her time as a member of the Board of Directors in 2004. During her tenure, she spent time as a chair of the Nominating Committee as well as chair of the Personnel Committee. Even having completed her term on the Board of Directors, Sonna still continues to serve on the Personnel Committee 10 years later!

Though her time on the Board and its committees allowed her to better understand the agency and its workings, Sonna finds her role as a Community Educator the most rewarding.

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Educate Yourself While Educating Others

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AliceI started training as a Community Educator during my first semester of my first year of college. Going into the first meeting, I was pretty nervous — the room was filled with folks that were older than me as well as a couple of fellow college students. But we bonded quickly, and they became some of the people who helped me survive my first semester of school.

The college environment can be incredibly stressful for women and their allies in the fight against sexual assault. It’s easy to feel powerless and overwhelmed with the number of students who perpetuate oppressive ideas. The best way to combat this feeling is to put that anger and frustration into direct action — working with the Center is one of the best ways to do that.

Trainings are long, but filled with love and purpose. The time commitment is significant but so deeply worth it, and you really can’t have a bond with your fellow trainees without putting in that time.

Working with the Center gave me the chance to learn about rape culture in a safe environment. I wasn’t being graded, I had many opportunities to ask questions about the cause and effect of oppression, and I learned how to exercise self-care.

It was also a great chance for me, as a Women’s & Gender Studies major, to get a chance to see what day-to-day life is like while working for a direct service nonprofit. When you think of a rape crisis center, you tend to imagine somewhere cold and depressing, with lots of crying women and weird smells. But the Center radiates love and warmth. Every person there takes their job very seriously — but there’s also lots of joy and laughter in the room.

In the education trainings, we’re taught how to keep a conversation moving, dig deep, and avoid common conversational pitfalls. These skills come in handy in so many areas of life, and it’s great to learn them in a safe, non-judgmental environment.

I loved having the chance to connect with other students as well as adults from around the community. It’s so nice to get a break from the campus bubble and be around folks who are old enough to give you advice but are not, you know… your parents. It’s like getting to hang out with your cool queer aunts/uncles and help prevent sexual assault. Does it get any better than that?

Alice Wilder majors in Women’s & Gender Studies at UNC-Chapel Hill. She has supported the Center in a number of capacities, including Start Strong Educator and Social Media Intern.

Safe Touch Educator training begins in August 2014, and Start Strong Educator training will begin in September. Find out more about our volunteer programs and how to apply at ocrcc.org/ce


The Wonders of Companionship

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I first heard about the opportunity to become a Companion in my Women’s Studies 101 class at UNC during spring of my first year in college. We went around the large lecture hall and students shared the various kinds of feminist community service they were involved in. One young woman spoke about her experience as a Companion with the Orange County Rape Crisis Center and how meaningful she found the work. Having seen the effects of sexual violence in my group of closest friends and knowing the feeling of helplessness when they had come to me with their stories, I knew I wanted to be able to give more, but I was unsure of what that would look like.

After class, I spoke with my classmate and felt sure that I wanted to become a Companion with the Center. Sixty hours of training seemed daunting at first, but as the weeks went on, I built relationships with my fellow trainees and staff, and I began to understand the impact of what I was learning. When we discuss sexual violence in a classroom or read about it or even hear about it on the news, it can seem abstract. So many myths surround the topic that is often difficult to discern how someone might experience rape in real life.

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Volunteer Voices: Alice, Community Educator

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When people ask me what it’s like volunteering at the Orange County Rape Crisis Center, my first response is to say, “It’s so much fun!” People are usually surprised to hear that, of course, but it’s the truth. I am a Community Educator with the OCRCC, and it is a blast.

Jordan and Jasmine

Community Educators use puppets to teach the Safety Saying and other safety rules to elementary school kids.

We CEs go into Chapel Hill-Carrboro and Orange County schools to present violence prevention programs to elementary and middle school students. With very young children, we talk about good touches and bad touches and what to do if somebody makes you feel uncomfortable. With older children, we teach bystander education (teaching them to stand up for what’s right). With these middle school students, we even start to deconstruct rape culture and get at the underlying cultural assumptions that lead to sexual harassment. And over and over, I am amazed at the enthusiasm, maturity, and grace that students of all ages show.

Training to volunteer at the OCRCC is intense. There are days when you come home very depressed and discouraged. Your heart aches as you witness the damage done to a community by sexual violence. But when you start doing programs, it changes. It’s not all sunshine and rainbows, by any means, but you realize that the vast majority of kids out there really do want to do what’s right. They don’t want to hurt people. They don’t even want to be complicit in a culture that hurts people. Even when they’re too young to understand the details, they hope for a world without violence, without harassment, without abuse. And you get to be the person who shows them what that world looks like.

Alice Drozdiak supports the Center in multiple capacities, including as a Community Educator. Alice has presented Safe Touch programs to elementary school students and Rape Prevention Education programs to middle school students for over a year. 

Find out more about being a Community Educator at ocrcc.org/ce. Fall training starts in September 2012. Apply online by August 31.


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