Women's Healing and Empowerment Network (WHEN) is a faith-based non-profit organization founded in 2008 as a response to the growing need to provide education, programs,and services to address the issues of domestic violence, sexual abuse, and related issues.
Before WHEN came to fruition, two women, Polly Westman and Peggie Melanie Harris, unselfishly assisted and influenced the direction of the organization.
Polly and Ron Westman donated a large Victorian farm house, two cottages, large barn, and bunkhouse on seven acres to shelter women, children, and pregnant teens during the time of storm in their lives. Mable C. Dunbar, Ph.D., L.P.C., founder of the Women's Healing and Empowerment Network, named it Polly’s Place.
Hi, my name is Polly, and I am one of 14 brothers and sisters. We were a large farming family living off the land with very loving and kind Christian parents. We were taught the love of Jesus from childhood. When the last of our large family were away at academy and college, my mother took in foster children whose parents had abandoned them. I saw her lovingly work with these families, encouraging them and sharing the love of Jesus with them. She also cared for the tiny baby of a pregnant teen while she went to school. I saw the love my dear mother gave to this teen mom and her baby and the joy that came to this scared little mother’s heart, only a child herself; and I knew that by God’s grace I wanted to serve Jesus someday by helping others, the way my mother so lovingly did.
I became a Registered Nurse and Nursing Home Administrator, operating our own Nursing Home for 25 years. One day, I had a visit from Dr. Mable Dunbar. I liked her and her passion to help hurting, battered and broken women and children. Her dream was to shelter, educate, counsel, and love these dear ones to a healthy and happy life by bringing Jesus into the healing process. At the public shelter where she worked, she was not allowed to pray with her clients, even her Christian clients. She needed suitable housing and grassy acres for the children to run and play. She found just the place of her dream, and it was for sale. She found the owner of the property, and there she was in my office with no money to purchase it, but with a heart full of love to give to others. She knew this was the property God wanted her to have for her mission.
Another party, with cash, was by now in the picture and wanted to purchase the property. My husband Ron and I had prayed about what to do, and God so lovingly showed us. We donated the large Victorian farm house, two cottages, large barn, and bunkhouse on 7 acres to be used to God’s glory to shelter women, children, and pregnant teens during the time of storm in their lives. Mable named it Polly’s Place, and before the home was officially open, there were clients waiting in line for help. As I would stop by and see children ready to swing on the old tire swing that my own children used to play on, I could only say, "Thank You, Jesus". As I attended group therapy with the women and listened to the mothers and children sing so sweetly for evening worship, I thought of the words from Jesus, “Suffer the little children to come unto me and forbid them not for of such is the kingdom of Heaven”. To God be the Glory. Great things He hath done.”
For 15 years, Polly’s Place was a facility for women with children (boys up to 10 years old) who needed a safe place to retreat from domestic violence, and sexual abuse. Due to limited finances, the facility was officially closed in 2014. Residents stayed up to two months, and their school aged children were required to attend school. Residents participated in group counseling, individual counseling, and other programs offered by Women’s Healing and Empowerment Network (WHEN).
I would like to pay tribute to Polly Westman for her dedication, support and friendship throughout the years. She is committed to helping hurting women and children. Her never ending compassion is a testimony of a woman of Spirit. Polly used her influence and resources in various ways to bless countless of individuals who needed help. As a result of her initial donation of the home in Niles, Michigan, and her constant support throughout the years, WHEN was established to continue the mission of assisting victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse. Because of Polly's unselfish acts, countless women, children, and men have found hope, safety, support, healing and empowerment through Christ. Polly you are loved, valued, and appreciated. – Mable Dunbar
When Peggy Melanie Harris could no longer afford to keep her ministry operational, she willingly gave the information on the W.A.S.H. website to WHEN. This information helped WHEN define its programs and offer appropriate services to those in need.
After finishing high school at Auburn Adventist Academy, Peggy married Mel Harris on August 31, 1952. They lived at College Place, Wash., while Mel finished college. They moved to Bremerton, Wash., and returned to Auburn, Wash., until Mel got his draft notice. Soon they were living in Rolla, Missouri, where Peggy worked for Adventist Physicians. The couple stayed there until Mel got out of the army.
Peggy and Mel moved to Pacific Union College (PUC) in Angwin, Calif., where Mel started the Planning & Design Department of the college that designed Rio Lindo Academy. Peggy was the head of the Switchboard Operators at PUC. She took classes including Interior Design from Wilma Westphal, and together they planned the interior design of Rio Lindo Academy.
Two children were born, Melanie in 1958 and Mark in 1962. The family moved to Ohio in 1964 and lived there. Peggy spent her first two years at Kettering Hospital, where she worked on the switchboard. Mel was the owner’s representative for the construction of the 4th floor. In 1964 the family moved to Maryland where Mel worked for Risk Management at the General Conference, and Peggy worked for Insurance Agents. In 1980 she became an agent and had her own business till she retired in 2012. Peggy’s husband of 59 years passed away in 2011.
Peggy is a lay member of the Beltsville, Maryland, Seventh-day Adventist Church. She has served as a local elder and in various other church offices. She has traveled in the United States and Canada, presenting Biblical Hospitality Seminars to churches, to federation workers, and at women’s retreats. She also conducted seminars on Abuse issues. She has served as a member of several North American Division (NAD) committees including Sexual Ethics for the Commission and Women’s Ministry Advisory. For many years she served on the national board for the Association of Adventist Women (AAW) as Director of Special Events, President Elect, President, and Church Liaison. She developed the Woman of the Year Award for AAW, which has been duplicated in Women’s Ministries and other organizations.
Peggy was active in community service and in her profession as an insurance agent with Nationwide Insurance Companies since 1980. She served on the board and as president 1988-1989 for Prince George’s Life Underwriters. In 1986 she was honored as Agent of the Year for that organization. In 1992 Peggy developed and chaired W.A.S.H. (Women and Men Against Sexual Harassment and Other Abuses). This organization has produced materials for lay members and church leaders on the subject of abuse.
Peggy served as an officer of the Columbia Union ASI (Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries). In August 1995, she received the Woman of the Year Award for Columbia Union at the ASI Convention in Spokane, Wash. Peggy's published works include “Deaconess Ministry” and “Beginnings and Endings” published by Advent Source, poems for church periodicals, and devotionals for the Women’s Ministry devotional books. She has also published “Anatomy of a Divorce,” “Celestial Chronicles,” “Encounter With God,” “God is Calling His Children Home,” “Indestructible Hope,” and “In God’s Time” through AuthorHouse Publishing Company.
Even though retired and 82 years old, Peggy's light continues to shine.