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Their Soul Support : Charity: From small beginnings in a Fullerton garage, a former executive's ministry reaches out to the homeless and the hungry, gently mixing messages with meals.

November 22, 1995|MIMI KO CRUZ | SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

The faces, drained of hope, were too familiar.

"They were in my own back yard," Ed Borrowe remembers thinking five years ago. He realized that the faces on TV of the homeless and hungry in distant lands were the same as those he saw much closer to home.

"Doing something about the hungry and people hurting on our own home front was something that began burning in my heart," Borrowe, 33, says.

With the support of his wife, Ellie, and a friend who has since moved out of state, Borrowe founded a nonprofit ministry--Home Front Church--in Fullerton to feed and clothe the homeless. The ministry's efforts are among a mix of religious and secular grass-roots projects that have grown to serve Orange County's poor.

On Thursday, the ministry will serve its fifth Thanksgiving Day dinner. At the last four, a total of more than 2,000 meals were served; 500 people are expected this year.

When it was founded, Home Front was based in the garage of Borrowe's Fullerton home.

Today, it has 130 members and a church in a converted warehouse at 808 W. Commonwealth Ave. At the church, anywhere from two to 30 people walk in off the street each day in search of a meal, which the ministry provides. In addition, volunteers go into the community to find those in need.

"It got to the point that I could not do anything else," says Borrowe, a self-taught minister who eventually quit his job as a vice president of a lubrication company to pursue his ministry full time. "I don't want to do anything else."

Borrowe and other church volunteers deliver Christian messages along with meals, clothing, shoes and comforting words. Contributions from the congregation and others allow the ministry to carry out its work.

"This is the best way to work with society, at zero cost to the government," Borrowe says. "We're giving people a hand up."

Every Thursday night, Borrowe and a handful of volunteers go to La Palma Park in Anaheim, where they find dozens of people--some homeless, some penniless, some prostitutes, some drug addicts and all hungry--wanting some consolation, spiritual advice or just someone to tell their troubles to.

"A lot of homeless people are afraid to come into a building to ask for help, so we go out to them," Borrowe says.

Jennie Ruscher, 34, comes to the park each Thursday with her three young children for some soup and a sandwich. Her husband earns $200 a week, barely enough to pay the rent on a small apartment on the northern edge of Anaheim.

"I look forward to Thursday nights here," she says, her blond hair dull and pushed behind her ears. "If it weren't for [Home Front], we'd have no clothes. You can rely on them to be here whether you need food or clothes or just inspiration, and they're not fake."

She said she appreciates that Home Front does not "push religion on you if you don't want it." That is not the case with many other religious groups that offer aid to the poor, she says.

Another woman in the park, Diane (India) Olivares, 43, also speaks highly of Home Front. One Thursday night several years ago, she said she was poised to jump off the bridge over the Riverside Freeway at Harbor Boulevard when she heard her name.

It was Borrowe calling her to come and eat at the park. His concern kindled in her the desire to stay alive and do more with her life.

"Pastor Ed dragged me out of the pit I was in and made me feel like I'm somebody special," Olivares says. "He reaches out to those that are so deeply hurting, thinking they're maggots. . . . Sometimes there's so much pain and hurt and you need affection because you had enough rejection. I come here every week because I have no where else to go for fellowship, love and someone to lean on."

The volunteers who accompany Borrowe on his weekly trip to the park include two former homeless men--Mark McGavran, 52, and Rick (Fonzie) Albert, 33.

McGavran, a recovering alcoholic, donates his time at the church daily, answering telephones and counseling and delivering bread to the needy at a local laundry each week.

Albert credits the church with helping him realize his life was worth living free of drugs. He now has an apartment and does construction work.

"I think God's using Ed in a good way, a great way," Albert said. "He's really dedicated to helping people."

*

Besides his Home Front ministry, Borrowe is a police chaplain for Fullerton. Describing him as "a hard-working guy who isn't afraid to go and face danger," Police Chief Patrick McKinley says Borrowe radiates energy.

"Ed is a very, very committed young man who is working very, very hard . . . with a level of society that people don't always pay attention to," McKinley says. "People at first look at him a little askance because his church caters to those on the lower part of the economic ladder. But after they get to know him and realize that his commitment is real, all the concerns melt away."

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