THORN Ministries Help Feed Local Homeless

For 24 years, THORN Ministries has served the local homeless community.

Riverview resident Anita ‘Mama Thorn’ DeBiase was driving on the US highway. 301 Twenty years ago when she heard the voice of the Lord say, “Feed my sheep.”

Even as she cared for Carl, her ailing husband, she was determined to follow the inspiration.

“Even though I was going through a hardship in my own life, I needed to help others,” said DeBiase, a German immigrant who was a child during World War II and moved to the United States in 1958. “I know what it is to be hungry and have nothing to eat”.

When her husband’s nurse told her about Thankfully Helping Others Real Needs Ministries (THORN), a charity that feeds homeless people in Tampa on Sundays, she decided to get involved by cooking meals in her kitchen and delivering them to the often overlooked population of Tampa.

“The good book tells us that we should help each other,” DeBiase said.

The 84-year-old can’t serve as much as before due to health issues, but she still helps by storing the ministry’s mobile pantry in her large yard.

THORN Ministries founder Kristin Taylor credits the longevity of her ministry to volunteers like DiBiase.

“The volunteers who come to help and give of their time and resources are just amazing,” she said.

The ministry began when Taylor and her husband, who had four biological children and were adoptive parents to eight others, decided one Thanksgiving day to teach her extended family to think of others instead of themselves. They prepared food, piled into the family van and drove to downtown Tampa, where they fed about 60 homeless people.

“The impact it has had on my kids has been incredible,” Taylor said.

The service project touched more than the hearts of his children. She saw the desperate need within the homeless population and knew they needed help. This unique teaching moment turned into a 24-year mission.

“God stuck me in this for life,” she said.

People quickly found out about the service she was doing and wanted to help. Volunteers cook at home. Others help distribute food to the homeless. Even elderly volunteers have food delivered to their homes so they can prepare the ingredients into delicious meals, which are then collected for distribution.

“Anyone can get involved,” Taylor said.

The ministry has grown from feeding 60 homeless people each week to nearly 400. Since she started, she has traded the family van for a food trailer. Every week, she sees a miracle in the number of meal trays donated by volunteers. In 24 years of existence, it has never lacked food. Leftovers are delivered to needy families in Gibsonton.

In addition to a meal, the group distributes hygiene and first aid products. Sometimes a hairdresser volunteers to cut the hair. If a homeless person needs a pair of steel-toed boots or a black t-shirt for work or a pair of sneakers, she said they always seem to secure the required items.

“There really are a million ways to get involved,” she said.

Once, Taylor called someone up to her and told him he didn’t have time to volunteer, but he had money and asked how he could help. She mentioned a few small items he could give away. He said, “Think bigger.” She mentioned that her vehicle had mechanical problems. He bought her a new truck.

“It’s a miraculous thing happening here,” she said. “The Lord provides.”

To learn more about volunteering or donating to THORN Ministries, contact Volunteer Coordinator Jamie Yonke at 813-205-0745 or visit


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