Kate Wedell is the founder and Executive Director of Cherished LA. Kate’s inspiration for Cherished came from her own broken past. Kate Wedell’s story is one from Survivor to Liberator. A southern girl, Kate was born and raised in Albany, Georgia. She was introduced to the commercial sex industry at the age of 4, when she was put in a car late one night to go pick her father up from the strip club. The next year her father died in her home. Fatherless at the age of 5, she felt orphaned and abandoned by the man she loved. She would spend the next 25 years looking for affirmation from a man. At 19 she came to LA to pursue a dream in the music industry, but instead fell into the commercial sex industry. Film producer Nancy Borgnine found Kate in a strip club and hired her to choreograph two films. Kate then got a job as a dancer on a late night TV show, The Party Machine, but that didn’t stop the downward spiral she was in. She became addicted to drugs to numb the pain of the lifestyle she was consumed by, and was trafficked by a man she thought she could trust. Kate eventually ended up in Sybil Brand, a women’s correctional facility.
Kate eventually, courageously escaped her past after 10 years in “the industry.” Knowing she needed to reach out to other survivors, Kate founded Cherished LA in 2010. This social enterprise helps women caught in the commercial sex industry, and empowers them to learn job skills making jewelry and organic bath and body products.
To better serve the women of Cherished, Kate has pursued a credential as a lay trauma counselor from The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology. For 8 years, Kate was an Abortion and STD Educator for Care Net Crisis Pregnancy Center. She also served as an Outreach Leader for a survivor-run, anti-trafficking program, Treasures in Los Angeles.
Kate also has a heart for survivors of human trafficking in Brazil. When Brazil hosted the World Cup in 2014, Kate participated in an outreach there for victims from across the world. Most recently, in 2016, Kate traveled to Sao Paulo, Brazil to help train the staff of Casa Liberdade, a home for children rescued from sex trafficking.
Kate is a licensed cosmetologist since 1983, having attended one of the top schools on the East Coast, Leon's Beauty School in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she received a post-secondary degree in marketable Cosmetic Arts and Sciences. From there, she worked at the Sebastian Artistic Center to further her education. She also studied skin care at Christine Valmy in New York City and continues classes with Paul Mitchell.
Kate is grateful for her supportive husband of 24 years and her 3 children, who have walked this journey alongside her.
Kathe Simons joined Cherished LA at its inception. God put Kate and Kathe together in a way only God can. Kathe attended the original training with Kate, and knew God wanted her to support Kate and other survivors.
In prior years, God healed Kathe's own hurts through different areas of service. She joined S.A.R.S (Sexual Assault Response Service) in the Antelope Valley and served as a Certified Sexual Assault Court/Survivor Advocate and Counselor for 5 years. This led to the start-up of the Domestic Violence/Abuse Life Skills Center, a certified court-ordered 52 week program for both survivors and perpetrators of domestic violence. Her heart’s desire is to walk with survivors, and help them realize their value is “far above rubies.” She wants each survivor to know God loves them and has a purpose for their lives.
Born in the south and raised throughout the U.S. as an Army brat, Billy spent his formative years exposed to various cultures and peoples. An appreciation for all people and a “church going” upbringing together served as the mold that set the stage for his love for ministry. It was in college, at the age of 19, that the seed of the gospel planted early in his life brought Pastor Billy into a saving relationship with Jesus. After graduation he met and married the love of his life, Regina, and enlisted in the United States Army.
Pastor Billy and Regina spent time abroad in Nuremburg, Germany as interim lead pastors of two different fellowships over a three-and-a-half-year span. After returning to the U.S., settling in California, beginning a career with the Los Angeles County Probation Department and serving in various ministry capacities for approximately 15 years, Pastor Billy and Regina planted the Antelope Valley West Foursquare Church in Lancaster. They served the church plant for eight years before Pastor Billy passed the baton and was led to assist the Highlands Christian Fellowship, where he is currently serving as Teaching Pastor, Haitian Missions Lead, and Ministry Lead for the Spirit of the Highlands Outreach Ministry. Pastor Billy believes he is at his best for God when he is coaching and mentoring others, especially other leaders.
Robyn Stroup has been in full time ministry for 32 years along with her husband Tim. They moved to California from the midwest in January 1987. They have pastored and helped lead many churches in Southern California, from Sacramento to San Diego. In June of 2005, God brought them to Palmdale, CA to be the Pastors of Crosswind Church in the Antelope Valley.
In recent years Robyn has come to know the importance of her own story, and where God has been with her on her journey. This knowledge fueled her passion to help other women see their own stories, and understand who God has created them to be. Robyn joined Cherished LA in March of 2016 as a mentor, and began leading a support group at Cherished once a month. Through her time and commitment walking alongside the women, she has helped many survivors see that they are indeed loved, valued and cherished. One thing Robyn likes to remind every person she encounters is that God loves them, and his mercies are new every day.
Robyn and Tim are the proud parents of four daughters and six grandchildren.