A special part of Thanksgiving is missing this year at the Love Kitchen. It is the first holiday without the two iconic founders behind the ministry. 

Helen and her twin sister Ellen founded the organization more than 30 years ago, that provides meals and clothes to the hungry. 

Ellen Turner passed away in 2015. Sadly, this past year, the community mourned the loss of Helen Ashe. Volunteers at the Love Kitchen are dedicated to carry on their mission of love in the community. 

“No one is ever turned away. There are no questions asked. Everyone is welcome. You just come in, eat,” said Jennifer Downer, a volunteer. 

The foundation of the Love Kitchen since the iconic women began it in 1986 has been accepting people in need. Their legacy lives on.

“When they decided to start this place, it was to make sure no one falls through the cracks. Everyone is fed, both physically and spiritually as well,” said Patrick Riggins, the executive director of the Love Kitchen. 

The Love Kitchen sisters’ lasting impact in East Tennessee is evident. 

“To express Helen and Ellen, the only word that comes to mind is love, because that’s what they were about,” said Robert Kantowski, the kitchen manager. “On holidays it’s even worse because they would be in the kitchen cooking, you don’t see them here, but you have a feeling they’re here. Their presence is here. And it’s always going to be here.”

From the turkey to gravy and all the fixings, the meals are being prepped and ready for the holiday. It’s a tradition that will continue at the Love Kitchen, keeping Helen and Ellen in mind. 

Riggins adds, “We’ll continue on exactly as they wanted us to, which is caring for people, making sure they have something to eat.”

If you don’t have a place to go on Thanksgiving, the Love Kitchen says it will be serving meals between noon to 4:30 p.m. on Thursday. Everyone is welcome.