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GARDEN GROVE : Bank Helps Pastor Get on His Feet

Standing amid racks of blue jeans at a local clothing store, Lubomir Kolarov said that although he does not have much in terms of material goods, he does have something more important: his freedom.

Still, Kolarov, a Christian pastor who left his native Bulgaria amid religious persecution three years ago, owns none of the things that others take for granted, such as bedsheets, towels, dishes, and clothes and shoes that fit. He lives for now in a small apartment provided by a Westminster homeless shelter with his wife, Annette, and 16-month-old daughter, Sara.

Although his struggle to build a life for his family has been difficult, a charity program aimed at helping low-income families promises to make it a little easier. The 2-year-old program, run by the National Bank of Southern California in Santa Ana, is called “New Beginnings” and raises money to buy food, clothing and other essentials for people like the Kolarovs, said coordinator Carol Brady.

Every three months, New Beginnings chooses a new family to help, usually raising about $2,500 for each family. The money comes from bank customers, employees and the bank. The program works with Westminster Shelter for the Homeless, providing furniture and clothing for families at the group’s shelters.

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“This is a very big help for us,” said Kolarov, 41. “It’s a very good feeling, and I’m happy because now there’s a future for me.”

The Kolarovs sold everything they owned to move to New York three years ago and then to California not long after. They stayed at a local pastor’s home until July, when they found an apartment through Westminster Shelter for the Homeless.

Annette Kolarov, 23, attends a cosmetology school and wants to become a dental technician. Her husband is working as a cabinetmaker and is also skilled as a jewelry maker, although he no longer has tools to ply his trade. He aspires to open a home someday for homeless alcoholics and drug addicts, where he can continue his work as a pastor.

“I have American spirit in my heart,” he said. “I love this country very much--more than my own.”

At the clothing store, Brady and the Kolarovs shopped for new jeans and sneakers. The family has few clothes and much of what they own is ill-fitting. Brady made note of measurements to ensure that donated clothing would be the proper size and pointed out that with Annette two months’ pregnant, the family would need to start thinking about maternity clothes.

Brady said the program will collect donations through December and give them to the family in time for the holidays, and added: “These are people who if you just give them a break, that’s all they need. These people also just need to know that someone cares about them.”

People interested in donating should call Westminster Shelter for the Homeless at (714) 897-3221 and ask for Rita.


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