Brian Mittge Commentary: One Woman Who Changed Our World


We all have a chance to make our mark in the world, and all of them are important. Some of us not only leave a major mark, but create something that lasts and grows. And some of us even inspire others along the way to give with grace and joy. 

Dr. Jennifer Polley, co-founder of Northwest Pediatric Center, is one of those people. In the story running in today’s newspaper, a photo shows her smile that demonstrates the kind of joyful strength she brings to the job.

I’ve had respect and admiration for Dr. Polley since meeting her as a youngster when our family attended First Presbyterian Church in Centralia with her. 

That was around the time she and Dr. James Miller founded Northwest Pediatric Center with a mission “to continue the healing ministry of Jesus Christ in our community.”

As that clinic has grown to serve tens of thousands of young patients at five clinics in Lewis and South Thurston counties, they have managed to keep focused on their mission and the holy source of their strength. 

On their website they say, “our roots remain unchanged: Jesus Christ is the vine and we are the branches; apart from Him, we can do nothing (John 15:4-5).”

In addition to serving patients (including all three of my children), their providers go on medical mission trips to help hurting children around the world. They also allow their Centralia facility to play host to the free faith-based clinic known as Health & Hope Medical Outreach.

The impact she has made on the future of our community through service to our children is tremendous. She has also served the adults who work with her, providing leadership while allowing others to grow into strength alongside her. I believe her Christian faith has helped her become that kind of strong servant-leader.

Polley will retire Tuesday, the week she turns 67, from the business she founded 30 years ago. She has faith that those new leaders she has empowered will continue the business, and more importantly, their core values of compassion, generosity, excellence, integrity and stewardship.

“(It’s a) group of people that really are mission driven, and really care about people,” she said of her staff. “It’s so cool to have been part of this until now and to walk away and say, ‘Man, these people have got it.’ They are going to do some things better, they’re going to have new ideas. But the core stays the same.”

Her words today reminded me of something I heard her say almost a decade ago, when she spoke in 2014 during a fundraiser for Health & Hope Medical Outreach:

“I’ve learned about true gratitude from people who are hopeful that they might feel good again. In serving, the person who gets changed and served is me. In a time with such discord and fears, I’m thankful to be part of this work in Lewis County.”

Thank you for your work, Dr. Polley. May God bless you as you have blessed your neighbors.

Rejected April Fool’s Stories

I’m fortunate that this column is going to print on Saturday, April 2, because it saves me the trouble of thinking of any April Fool’s column ideas that could possibly compete with the strangeness of reality these days. 

Still, a few possibilities do come to mind. 

• An “Angry Birds” themed video game based on Yard Birds and Sunbirds.

• New natural disaster-themed water park, “Great Flood Lodge,” opens, but online reservation system fails immediately due to a waterlogged computer server. 

• The innovative idea to combine the Pe Ell River Run and Ride the Willapa bicycle ride doesn’t go well. Only one cyclist with water wings manages to complete the combination event, but his bike is never the same after plunging over Rainbow Falls.

We can file these jokes away for next year. Let’s hope they don’t turn into reality before then. 

Dad Joke of the Week

I’m so pleased to bring another fine wordplay from my youngest son. This father loves a good dad joke from his kiddos. Here you go:

If a cat and its natural enemy were fighting beneath the table, it would be the underdog. 


Brian Mittge’s columns appear each Saturday in his hometown newspaper. Send him dad jokes, failed April Fool’s Day ideas and other retiring community heroes at