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Economy forces Love Kitchen numbers to increase

For 23 years, the Love Kitchen has been serving meals to the underprivileged and working poor of Knoxville, but recently the number of people they serve has increased while supplies and volunteers are decreasing.

The Love Kitchen opens its doors every Wednesday and Thursday to serve more than 2,000 people, and with the economy in a downturn, the Love Kitchen has seen a 60 percent increase in the number of people they serve.

"People that were living paycheck to paycheck suddenly require our services to survive," Love Kitchen president Ray Abbas said.

People that were living paycheck to paycheck suddenly require our services to survive. Love Kitchen president Ray Abbas

For a short period of time earlier this fall, the Love Kitchen was dreading the thought of having to close its doors, but thanks to a fundraiser and the help of Panera Bread and WBIR, it raised three times amount the money they needed to stay open.

However, since the Love Kitchen operates solely on donations, and none of the board members or workers are paid for their duties, monetary support is always needed.

Every week, members of Phi Gamma Delta fraternity volunteer their Wednesday afternoons to fill emergency bags with frozen meats, canned goods and desserts for people to take home and last them until the kitchen serves again.

"It's nice to be able to help these people and just to be able to help Helen and Ellen out makes it really worthwhile since they can't do everything they used to," Phi Gamma Delta philanthropy chair Matt Baumgartner said.

Helen Ashe and Ellen Turner, the twin sisters who founded the Love Kitchen in 1986, are still active members of the organization from cooking in the kitchen to greeting and serving.

"We keep going even though our knees are wearing out," Ashe said.

"This is not about us, it's about the Lord and His work in a ministry that, we hope, will go on forever," Turner said. 

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