California church resources foster parents, reunified families through closet ministry

California church resources foster parents, reunified families through closet ministry

Daniel Sperry for Nazarene News
| 16 Mar 2022
Two men smile in front of a pickup truck.

Nick Gebhart (left) and Derek Chase (right) are two of the leaders of Peanut's Closet, a ministry that provides beds, clothing for children of all ages, diapers, formula, and more at no cost to foster parents and families who are reunifying with their children. 

Brittany and Derek Chase felt completely unprepared the first time they received a call about accepting a foster child. They had just one day to gather all the supplies to take care of a baby, so they reached out to their neighbors through social media.

The community response was overwhelming, leading to the creation of Peanut’s Closet, a ministry that resources foster parents and biological families as they reunify. Peanut’s Closet is a ministry of The Church at Riverstone, a church plant that began last year in Madera, California.

Derek, who serves on staff at the church, said that when foster families receive a placement, they don’t get any financial assistance until a month or more after the child arrives.

“You have this upfront cost where you’re trying to meet the needs for a kid,” Derek said.

Brittany described the experience of receiving a placement as a sometimes-frantic situation when in best-case scenarios you receive a few days’ notice. In emergencies, it can be just a matter of hours, oftentimes with scarce details.

“All you know is that you need a bed for a certain age and gender of a child and [you] have to go from there,” she said. “When you’re preparing for the birth of your child, it’s exciting and there is so much anticipation. With foster care, this is the worst moment of the child’s life.”

Derek hopes that Peanut’s Closet can be a place of refuge for foster families during the stressful time in advance of a new placement by providing beds, clothes for children of all ages, diapers, formula, and more at no cost.

The closet is located in Madera, which sits about halfway between Modesto and Bakersfield in the heart of California’s Central Valley region. More than 3 million people live in that 200-mile stretch, and Peanut’s Closet is the only organization that provides for these needs.

When The Church at Riverstone was planted last fall, both the Chases and Pastors Nick and Natasha Gebhart prayed for God to show them how to get their neighborhood participating in missions. That prayer was answered when they saw the community’s quick and enthusiastic response to the Chases’ request.

“We know that [when] people participate in missions, it changes lives,” Nick said. “It changes the life of the people that they’re serving, and it hits home for the person serving.”

Through Peanut’s Closet, church leaders hope to begin conversations with those in their community about how God works through them and show them that being a part of God's kingdom brings purpose.

Gebhart called it a “covert mission that our neighborhood is now on and they don’t know it yet.”



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