Kate Wedell is the founder and Executive Director of Cherished. Kate’s inspiration for Cherished came from her own broken past. A former victim of human trafficking and the commercial sex industry, Kate escaped her past after 10 years in "the industry." Knowing she needed to reach out to other survivors, Kate founded Cherished in 2011.
To better serve the women of Cherished, she is pursuing a credential as a lay trauma counselor from The Seattle School of Theology & Psychology. For eight years, Kate was as an Abortion and STD Educator for Care Net Crisis Pregnancy Center. She also served as Outreach Leader for a survivor-run, anti-trafficking program in Los Angeles.
Kate has a heart for survivors of human trafficking in Brazil. When Brazil hosted the World Cup in 2014, Kate participated in an outreach there to 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 also a licensed cosmetologist, 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.
Kate is grateful for her supportive husband and her three children.
Kathe Simons joined Cherished at its inception. God put Kate and Kathe together in a way only God can. She 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.
Mark Goodell is the Executive Pastor at The Highlands Christian Fellowship in Palmdale, California. Mark grew up a pastor’s kid in the Antelope Valley.
Watching his father help addicted teens come off the street, to be set free, and to live purposeful lives through a program he founded made an impression on Mark in his early years. Mark dedicated his life to God and has served in ministry for more than 35 years in the United States and Canada. In 2006, Mark and his family returned to the AV to partner in ministry with The Highlands. He feels his family’s return to his AV roots has a lot to do with God’s leading him to take care of some unfinished business, spiritually speaking. Mark is good at helping people answer the hard questions, and he enjoys helping others discover their purpose and passion. He often asks, “If you able to do anything and you were guaranteed not to fail, what would that look like?”
Mark serves on the Cherished Board because he believes every person is valuable to God and has a purpose in life. Being a partner with Cherished means continuing the legacy of love his father started in the Antelope Valley through reaching out to those who cannot help themselves.
When he is not working, Mark enjoys riding his Harley and loves to spend time with family. He has been married for over 30 years and has three children, two son-in-laws, and four beautiful grandchildren.
Dr. Lina Ponder has counseled children, teens, families and adults for over 15 years. Her specialties include addressing anxiety, depression, trauma, adoption and infant and maternal mental health. Her love and curiosity for listening to people's stories may in large be due to growing up and meeting people from all over the world. Meeting very different types of people taught Lina to deeply respect the unique journey each person has had. Lina especially focuses on the impact of relationships beginning in childhood and throughout one's life.
Following her desire to be trained well to come alongside others on their journey towards freedom, Lina has pursued both a doctoral degree in Clinical Psychology and seminary training in Spiritual Formation. When she can, she enjoys providing spiritual direction and leading retreats.
Lina has a particular passion for those impacted by commercial sexual exploitation and is honored to be a part of Cherished. She has been involved with international sex trafficking aftercare program efforts and led a support group for survivors in the Los Angeles area for over five years.
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.
Pastors 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’s believes he is at his best for God when he is coaching and mentoring others, especially other leaders.