top of page



Gary Bowen

Dean, UNC School of Social Work


“This is a topic that is dear to my heart, and an area that I have worked in for many years, starting back in 1982 with a department of the Navy doing one of the first studies of child abuse, spouse abuse and sexual assault and rape in the Navy. I then consulted with the Center for Disease Control in in the mid-1980s to examine what it would take to establish a domestic violence surveillance system for the United States. I don't think there has ever truly been a time more than a couple years that I have not been running a project on domestic violence and its importance in one way or another—mostly in the U.S. Military.

Gary Bowen.jpg

To be in Orange County and for us not to have any sheltering opportunities proves that this project is long overdue, and when contacted about this project, I had little recourse other than to say, ‘Yes! I will do this!” 


Gary Bowen, Ph.D. is Dean and Kenan Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill's School of Social Work. Bowen’s areas of expertise include community capacity building, secondary prevention of family maltreatment, school success, military families, family resiliency, and evaluation research. Dr. Bowen is past president of the National Council on Family Relations, and is a fellow in the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare for his distinguished accomplishment as a scholar and practitioner dedicated to achieving excellence in his work to advance social good. 

Aaron Nelson.jpg

Aaron Nelson

President and CEO, Chamber For a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro

“I am really excited to work with Compass Center and in particular, about this crisis housing solution they are proposing. We have long wrung our hands in Orange County about not having a domestic violence shelter, and this scattered housing model is a much faster, much more flexible and dynamic solution that can provide immediate relief and response to folks in desperate situations. With this project, we don’t have to go raise millions of dollars to

build a facility and put everyone in one place. Especially now in a COVID economy and community, it makes even more sense to create this type of safe housing throughout our community. I am very excited to be a public champion for this project!”


Aaron is President and CEO of the Chamber For a Greater Chapel Hill-Carrboro, a position he has held  since 2001.  Aaron is a successful advocate for local business and community interests.  Aaron also acts as Executive Director for the Partnership for a Sustainable Community, The Chamber’s charitable economic and community development arm. Aaron has served on the Board of Directors for more than 20 local, state, and national nonprofits, including the national Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives, the Carolinas Association of Chamber of Commerce Executives and the Carolina Club.  In 2011, Aaron co-founded the national Chambers for Innovation and Clean Energy. 

Vimala Rajendran.jpg

Vimala Rajendran
Owner, Vimala's Curryblossom Cafe, Community Leader

“I have lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina for 35 years, and I know about the Compass Center not just in passing, but as a client. I am a survivor of domestic violence and I had to run for shelter from my previous, life-threatening, abusive married situation. The Women’s Center, as Compass Center was then known, had a domestic violence hotline, but this need for shelter has always been here. We are in the middle of very uncertain times, and I am

honored and thrilled to be able to help make this kind of housing a reality for Orange County.”


Vimala Rajendran is the chef and founder of Vimala’s Curryblossom Café in downtown Chapel Hill. Her restaurant has been bringing homecooked Indian flavors from her home state of Kerala, her beloved Mumbai and other parts of India since 2010. A longtime activist for progressive causes including environmental justice, grassroots media, farm- and restaurant-worker rights, Vimala believes that delicious, wholesome food is a human right. Operating under the principle “Vimala cooks, everybody eats,” no one is ever turned away at her restaurant.

Linnea Smith.jpg

Linnea Smith, MD
Community Leader

"I am a long-term resident of Chapel Hill and have had the opportunity to participate in multiple efforts throughout the years that dealt with challenging social issues. I've continued my service on the UNC School of Social Work Advisory Board because of the school’s commitment to these issues including domestic violence. This campaign IS community, as we seek to respond to our citizens and the needs of vulnerable individuals and families with a cutting-edge, well-researched crisis sheltering program which is essential to all communities."

Linnea Smith, MD, graduated from UNC School of Medicine and received her training in psychiatry at UNC-Chapel Hill and has maintained a longstanding concern about the relationship of health as well as mental health to trauma and violence. The focus of her work has been in the fields of child maltreatment and sexual exploitation and she has organized national conferences on sex trafficking in 2006 and 2008. Throughout her career, she has looked at sociocultural factors that may contribute to these serious problems. Smith authored a book chapter in Medical, Legal, & Social Science Aspects of Child Sexual Exploitation, detailing the harms of the sexualization of children in advertising and popular media.  She remains an advocate and an activist against the dehumanization and violence against women and children in mainstream pornography, which she views as a public health and human rights issue. Currently she brings her commitment to our community to support the Compass Center Safe Homes campaign especially at this time when expanding resources are critically needed.


Marilyn Jacobs Preyer

Community Leader

Jeannie Denuo

Compass Center Board 


Rachel Mandell 

Compass Center Board Member 

Gillian Hare 

Chair, Compass Center Board


Susan Friedman

Co Interim Executive Director, Compass Center

Ardith Burkes

Co Interim Executive Director, Compass Center


Ashley Ahlers

Development Director, Compass Center 


Officers: Gillian Hare, Chair; Rachel Mandell, Vice-chair; Mary Tanner, Treasurer; Pamela Edwards, Executive Secretary


Directors: Briggs Weshe, Jeannie Denuo, Heather Hutchins, Meghan Kelley-Gosk, Catherine Stratton, Michelle Laws, Kimberly Kwok, Amanda Kyser, Sherry Wallace, Briggette Slivinski, Alyson Miller, Mary Turner, Modesta Williams


Compass Center for Women and Families | 210 Henderson Street, Chapel Hill, NC 27514 | 919-968-4610 

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Twitter
bottom of page