Remembering Knoxville’s ‘Love Kitchen’ sisters

Local News

To mention one name without the other feels incomplete. Helen Ashe and Ellen Turner were the sisters that tirelessly worked to feed Knoxville’s homeless and homebound.

Their mission was fulfilled through The Love Kitchen, located in East Knoxville.

“Helen and I can’t do it all,” said Turner. “We work hard, but it’s a bit much work. What Helen and I say is we’ve been blessed. We’ve been born twins because one could not do the work that we do at The Love Kitchen.”

Coming from humble beginnings, the twins were born in Abbeville, South Carolina. They were taught early on to be a service to others.

“The three truths that daddy taught us, number one, he taught us there is but one father and that’s our heavenly Father. Number two, he taught us there is but one race, that’s the human race. Number three, he taught us not to take the last piece of bread from the table because somebody may come by that’s hungry. So that’s The Love Kitchen, isn’t that wonderful,” said Ashe.

In 1986, the sisters founded The Love Kitchen in the basement of a small church and it has been a force ever since.

They have inspired countless people to give time and money.

As the sisters reached their 80s, Ashe would do most of the talking for the pair. Turner usually would look at her sister and smile.

But the work they did together would speak volumes. They dished more than one million plates of hot, home cooked food. Together they would become a household name in east Tennessee.

Side-by-side the two would take their local mission from Knoxville to the national spotlight.

A surprise feature on ABC show called “Secret Millionaire” featured The Love Kitchen sisters and millionaire Dani Johnson in 2011.

Johnson witnessed first-hand the sisters work and presented The Love Kitchen with a check for $20,000.

But when mega talk show host Oprah Winfrey learned about the sisters, she wanted in on Knoxville’s sweethearts. The sisters traveled to Chicago on a whirlwind trip.

“I cannot wait. I want to see Oprah so bad I can’t wait,” said Turner. “Well, I am in dreamland right now,” added Ashe.

Wearing the clothes they’re usually seen serving the hungry in with the signature phrase, ‘Everybody is God’s somebody,’ they were in for quite a shock.

On the show, Winfrey announced Kroger donated a year supply of food and new kitchen countertop appliances.

The excitement and fanfare would prove to be a little tough on the sisters. After returning home, both would undergo a month of hospital scares.

After building up their strength, they were back in action doing what they loved.

Turner though, would have to scale back her duties to focus on her health.

“I had a dream. God gave me this ministry in a dream and Ellen and I have been going ever since,” Ashe said on Oprah. “When we took retirement, I prayed to the Lord if it’s His will when he gets ready to call me home, call me while I am on my feet.”

But, it would be Turner would be called home first in April 2015, after decades of working to make sure no one goes hungry in Knoxville. Ashe joined her sister in eternal rest on Tuesday.

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