Helen Ashe, co-founder of The Love Kitchen, dies

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - One of the founders of Knoxville's The Love Kitchen, Helen Ashe, has died. 

Her family says Ashe's was declining. She passed away in her sleep. 

Ashe was inspired to start the organization after watching a TV news story about a soup line by Church Street United Methodist Church. 

Her sister, Ellen Turner, helped her start the charity. Turner died in 2015. 

The Love Kitchen first served 22 people February 14, 1986. Since then, the organization received its own building and serves over 3,000 meals each week. Many of the meals are delivered to people who are not able to leave their homes easily. 

Volunteers and staff at The Love Kitchen spent Tuesday thinking back on memories with Ashe and how she made everyone feel like family.

"When I first came in to fill out my application, she was like, 'Give me a hug, don't shake my hand.' And she hit me and I was like, 'What is this?' And she said 'Now you know why you hug me on the left side. It's because your heart is on the left side,'" said Robert Kantowski, kitchen manager at The Love Kitchen.

The sisters have been an inspiration to many in the community, especially those whose mission is the same in ending hunger.

"You can get overwhelmed with the magnitude of what we do but if I could just go over and spend five minutes with them, it was put into perspective real quickly that we need to be doing this," said Elaine Streno, executive director of Second Harvest Food Bank of East Tennessee. "This is a mission to feed our community. they made it fun and they made you want to do it even if you had a bad day. you knew leaving The Love Kitchen, you were going to go out and feed the hungry tomorrow because their commitment to it was so pristine."

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero released a statement saying,

"My heart goes out to the family and friends of Helen Ashe. Many thousands of people in our community knew and loved her. She and her late twin sister Ellen Turner led by example, and they were cherished nationally for their selfless giving. Helen and Ellen will long be remembered for their compassion. As many people have said many times, the Love Kitchen feeds both body and soul, providing not just meals to the hungry but comfort and love. My prayers and thoughts are with the sisters' family and friends and their extended Love Kitchen family. For many years, we have all been inspired by Helen and Ellen to care more deeply about those most in need." 

Saying goodbye to Knoxville's sisters has been impossibly hard but so many are making sure that their kitchen will always be their kitchen.

"We try to do the best we can to carry on their legacy, and you'll never fill their shoes, all we can do is carry on their work," said Patrick Riggins, executive director at The Love Kitchen.

There will be a receiving of friends at the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Friday The memorial service will also be at the church on Saturday at 1 p.m. The community is invited. 

The Love Kitchen is located at 2418 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard. 

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