CC Downey, CA, Offers Hope for Foster Children & Families
Story by Trinity Grau
Photos by Keith Durflinger
God, the ultimate Father, calls every Christian to help the fatherless of the earth. Members of Calvary Chapel Downey, CA, have responded to that call—some persevering through painful personal challenges—to form a strong, loving foster care ministry, Hannah’s Helpers.
Childcare and family support is one of the most neglected and important ministries that the church can take on, according to Assistant Pastor Glenn Kravig. “This is us being the body of Christ,” he declared.
A father of the fatherless, a defender of widows, is God in His holy habitation. Psalm 68:5
Rich and Paula Kellogg of Calvary Chapel Downey pray over Joel (left) and “Littler Man” before they go sleep. The Kelloggs adopted Joel from foster care in 2020 and are in the process of adopting Littler Man, also from foster care. They were instrumental in starting Hannah’s Helpers, a foster and adoptive care ministry at the church. To protect his identity, Littler Man’s face is blurred in all the photos.
Finding Foster Parenting
Rich and Paula Kellogg, members of CC Downey, tried unsuccessfully to have children for 12 years. Their long wait caused them to lean on the Lord. When visiting an orphanage in Ensenada, Mexico, Rich met a little girl who caused him to realize how much he wanted to be a father; a coworker then turned him and his wife onto the idea of foster care. The couple knew that this was something the Lord was calling them to do.
In August 2020, Rich and Paula’s dream of parenthood came to fruition. Their first foster son, Joel, became their legal son when his adoption was finalized. The couple rejoice in watching him grow and are now trying to adopt their second foster son, whom they affectionately call “Littler Man.” By living out the truth of a foster family’s joys and hardships, they are equipped to empathetically support other foster families through Hannah’s Helpers.
Joel and Littler Man play together at home.
Pastor Glenn shares a similar experience. He and his wife Peggy never had children of their own, leading them years ago to adopt one girl, Elizabeth; now grown, she is a highway patrol officer and is attending law school. This open adoption through House of Ruth, a former ministry of CC Downey, allowed them to raise her from her birth. They soon adopted their second daughter, Brittney, when she was two, also from House of Ruth. It was a difficult adoption that gave Glenn sympathy for adoptive families and eventually turned his eyes to the foster care system.
When Brittney was 15, Glenn revealed, she ran away from home and into trouble, meeting youths who had not been well-nurtured in their foster homes. Eventually she moved back home, married, and gave birth to two girls. She died at age 25, and Glenn and Peggy adopted Brittney’s two daughters, raising them as their own children.
In May, Hannah’s Helpers decorated and donated 100 duffle bags to a Department of Children and Family Services office. This aspect of the ministry meets an essential need, according to Rich Kellogg. He shared that many foster children move their belongings from home to home in garbage bags.
That journey alerted Glenn to the reality that some want to be foster parents for the money, “not to change these kids’ lives,” he observed. “We need some good, solid foster parents.” That excites him about Hannah’s Helpers: “We want to get people involved who feel the same way as we do about foster kids.”
A Burden & Calling
Rich and his wife knew that the Lord had opened a door for them to do more than just keep their foster journey to themselves. They, along with Karyn Johnson, wife of Senior Pastor Jeff Johnson, and Pastor Glenn felt a burden in their hearts to inspire the church body to begin a foster care and adoption ministry.
Volunteers carry the donated duffle bags they decorated for foster children. “This is us being the body of Christ,” said Pastor Glenn Kravig of CC Downey, who helped launch Hannah’s Helpers.
Foster care is one of the highest callings for Christians to rise to, Rich firmly believes. “The Lord has defined for us religion as it was intended to be,” he exhorted. Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world (James 1:27). To answer that need, Rich started Hannah’s Helpers. The name was inspired by the biblical account in 1 Samuel 1, when Hannah dedicated her only son, Samuel, to the Lord after being barren for many years.
Heartbroken & Moved
Pastor Glenn reflected, “[Foster care] really is a hole to be filled, and it’s something that the church not only can do but should do.” Foster children often move the few belongings they have from home to home in a trash bag—many might be in 15 foster homes by the age of 18. This lack of stability is a sad reality in the United States, both he and Rich emphasized.
“You are loved” is one of many messages that volunteers from CC Downey painted for foster children on the duffle bags. A minimum of 20 volunteers per week work with Hannah’s Helpers.
In 2017, Rich and his wife attended training to learn about the needs of foster youth. Then, during orientation to become foster parents, Rich was heartbroken as he learned what the children experience. “It’s just astonishing to me, really, how much these kids go through,” he admitted. “When our adopted son Joel was placed with us, he was 13 months old and had already been in five foster homes.”
Rich continued to describe the need and how it led to an essential part of Hannah’s Helpers’ ministry. “Foster children have very few belongings, and what they do have is treated like trash. It is very hard for someone who experiences this to have self-worth or self-confidence. We experienced this when our second foster placement was placed with my wife and I. The only belongings she came with were an old, dirty backpack and a dirty pair of pajamas. That is why I have placed such a big importance on Hannah’s Helpers donating duffle bags over the years.”
Pastor Glenn Kravig remains active in the Hannah’s Helpers ministry. Here, he is pictured with his family, from left to right: daughter Madison, Glenn, daughter Brooklynn, daughter Elizabeth, and wife Peggy. Glenn and Peggy adopted Elizabeth as an infant and another daughter, Brittney, at 2 years old. After Brittney died as a young woman, Glenn and Peggy adopted her children, Madison and Brooklynn, as their own.
Mission & Opportunities
Defend the poor and fatherless; do justice to the afflicted and needy. Psalm 82:3
A large part of Hannah’s Helpers’ mission is to support current foster families and children. Rich said the ministry has a minimum of 20 volunteers per week, with three leaders, including himself. Pastor Glenn is available for any consultation or needed help. Regular meetings are held. They raise awareness through social media and church bulletin inserts. The ministry also partners with the Department of Children and Family Services, Olive Crest (a Christian foster and adoption agency), and Camp Alandale (a camp for abused children in California). On a recent Saturday they assisted at a prom for Olive Crest.
Rich emphasized, “We want more people to see this problem. Even ‘just prayer’ helps.” The ministry raises funds for, and donate supplies to, local foster families; they purchase duffle bags and gift cards for foster youth and donate to organizations that help support foster children. Hannah’s Helpers also encourages and assists families considering foster care. “Anyone can become a foster parent, and I think [this] ministry has helped people do that,” Pastor Glenn stated.
Rich Kellogg describes the history and objectives of Hannah’s Helpers at a recent Paint Day fundraiser. He explained that the Paint Day proceeds were going to purchase duffle bags for foster children.
As Hannah’s Helpers continues to evolve, so too do opportunities for service. In May, they donated approximately 100 volunteer-decorated duffel bags to a Department of Children and Family Services office. On July 10th, they will hold an event to recruit foster parents.
Rich shared that one of their biggest goals is to start talking soon with orphanages in Mexico. “Lord willing, we’ll find the perfect place to partner with.” He takes inspiration from George Müller, a minister who helped show the love of God in 19th century England by establishing over 100 schools and caring for over 10,000 orphans.
Rich hopes to encourage more churches to partner in foster and orphan care. “Everyone can do something, even if that’s just keeping foster children in your prayers. Also, don’t think that you don’t have the ability to become a foster parent,” he urged.
Rich walks around to enjoy the artwork created by people who attended the Paint Day fundraiser for Hannah’s Helpers. The ministry helps to raise awareness of and support the needs of foster care children and foster families.
A new family: Paula, Joel, Rich, and Littler Man walk together at El Dorado Park in Long Beach, CA.
Rich stands close by as Joel finds his way around the playground equipment.
Rich and Paula enjoy watching Joel “read” a book with his foster brother Littler Man.
Rich reads with Joel and Littler Man as his wife Paula looks on.
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.