The Love Kitchen's Helen Ashe passes away

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) -- East Tennessee will never forget Helen Ashe, co-founder of The Love Kitchen. A close friend of the family told Local 8 News that Ashe has passed away.

Ashe was just about three weeks shy of her 90th birthday on March 8.

For more than three decades, Ashe devoted her time to feeding the homeless and homebound in Knoxville at The Love Kitchen. She opened The Love Kitchen in 1986 with her late twin sister, Ellen Turner, after seeing a news story about a soup line operated by Church Street United Methodist Church.

Fueled by faith and love, Helen and Ellen first served 22 people in a small church in East Knoxville on February 14, 1986. Helen and Ellen's dream now feeds more than 3,000 people each week, with more than 80 percent of the meals being delivered.

Kitchen Manager Robert Kantowski told Local 8 News, to him, Helen and Ellen "invented" love.

"It is a four letter word and I believe Helen and Ellen invented it, because it's been showing its way at the Love Kitchen," he said. "They put love in their food, they put love in peoples hearts, they put love all around Knoxville. If you ask people what love is, I have heard people say it's about Ellen and Helen."

Knoxville Mayor Madeline Rogero released a statement about the legacy of the twin sisters.

“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," Rogero said in a statement.

Helen's twin sister, Ellen, died in 2015. When Ellen passed, Helen told Local 8 News that even though Ellen has left us, the need is still here. "We want to keep this ministry going," Helen said.

The Love Kitchen's predecessors said the same. As Kantowski was sitting at Helen's old desk he said he and the organization's president would carry on the twin's legacy.

"Right now we are at 3,100 home-bound meals. That's a lot of love to do that every week," he said. "The struggles of money, the struggles of worries, the struggles of how we're going to feed these people; they depend on us, that's love because they did it every week."

Anyone wishing to honor Helen's giving spirit has been encouraged to volunteer at the Love Kitchen by calling 865-258-3248.

All services for Helen will be held at Fifth Avenue Baptist Church. Receiving of friends will be from 5:00-8:00 Friday evening. A memorial service will be held at 1:00 Saturday afternoon. To follow, the burial will be at Sherwood Memorial Gardens on Alcoa Highway.