Jefferson Award Winner, June 2018: Paul Ashe

MADISON (WKOW) — There’s a place in Madison where anyone can go to sit down for a free homemade meal, every day.

"If you can put people together at tables to eat together, they start to see each other differently than they did before," says Paul Ashe.

He’s one of the founders of the Community Meal Program at the Luke House in Madison, an idea that started in 19-81.

"Found out that there weren’t a lot of places, or any places to eat in the city of Madison, except for the meal that was served at the Wisconsin Rescue Mission back in those days."

So, they created one to get free meals to people who need it most.

"We started only one day a week and grew from there. We used the basement of St. Paul’s Catholic Center back in those days."

In 1984, they purchased a building on South Ingersoll Street.

"There were hundreds of people that worked tirelessly," says Paul. "I think it took us 50 weekends to remodel this building, it was an old upholstery factory."

It was a labor of love, with a name and mission that came from the Gospel of Luke.

"The scripture says, ‘The person that has two coats ought to give to the person that has none and the people who have food ought to do the same. "

Over the decades, the number of people who believe in that mission has multiplied.

"The meal program is really most about, and more about, people sharing their own food, than feeding the hungry. And it’s really about people having an opportunity and a place to make a difference by being able to share their own food," he says.

Nearly 4,000 volunteers make the Luke House Community Meal Program possible, donating food, preparing and serving meals.

"We serve lunch 4 days a week and an evening meal 5 days a week."

Hundreds of people gather around the tables every day.

"I don’t think that there is probably another place where that group of people that is at these tables is eating a meal together."

Paul is the orchestrator behind it all.

"I don’t not know anybody who gives more of themselves than Paul," says Matt Rogge. "He wouldn’t say that because he sees the good in so many people, but this man gives and he’s a coach. He coaches people into being better, more loving, more sensitive people."

It’s been a really good life," says Paul. "The people that I’ve had a chance to meet and be around, it makes a difference to have made a difference."

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