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Tunch Ilkin Remembered For Dedication To Light Of Life Rescue Mission

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Tunch Ilkin's dedication to Light of Life Rescue Mission is being remembered after his death.

Light of Life says it is receiving prayers from people all over the world for Ilkin, who died on Saturday, three months after announcing his retirement to focus on his battle with ALS.

Ilkin was totally dedicated to serving people experiencing homelessness, the hungry, and those in need of hope.

"There have been so many lives impacted by Tunch," said Jerrell Gilliam, the executive director for Light of Life Rescue Mision.

At Light of Life Rescue Mission on Pittsburgh's North Side when Ilkin walked in the door 35 years ago, his heart for helping and sharing his faith found its home. For the past 19 years, he and former Steelers teammate Craig Wolfley held the Tunch and Wolf's Walk for the Homeless.

During this summer's walk as the city proclaimed Tunch Ilkin Day, the two former Steelers announced the "Thanks a Million" campaign.

Ilkin was able to see the fruit of his faith earlier this year when the mission moved from a cramped facility on East North Avenue to a 23,000-square-foot facility on Madison Avenue.

But the mission said it's what Ilkin did behind the scenes that truly changed lives.

"People who once were addicts, people who were on the streets are coming up and telling me stories of how they interacted with Tunch. How Tunch would walk up to them and ask if he could pray for them, and he would encourage them if they were having a difficult time. He would share his number," Gilliam said.

Right now, Light of Life is seeing another kind of outpouring: people who want to give, volunteer, and serve just like Ilkin.

"He said he wants to love God, love other people, and he wants to leave the world a better place. And I think we can all agree that his mission was accomplished and I believe he is hearing, 'Well done, my good and faithful servant,'" Gilliam said.

Light of Life said the Tunch and Wolf "Thanks a Million" campaign has helped pave the way for a 45,000-square-foot facility on Ridge Avenue for those struggling with addiction and mental illness.

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