By Eileen Connelly, OSU 

“Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet.” – John 13:14 

In the simple act of washing the feet of his disciples, Jesus left us with a model of humble and loving service to others. His example is lived out regularly through the ministry at Foot Care for the Souls, a program of St. Francis Seraph Ministries in Cincinnati’s Over-the-Rhine, where those experiencing homelessness or poverty are uplifted through kindness and a gentle touch.  

Located in a busy urban setting at St. Anthony Center, Foot Care for the Souls is open on Tuesday and Thursdays from 4 to 6 p.m., from September to May, under the leadership of Beverly Clayton, program director. The hours are designed to correspond with the evening meal served at the Mother Teresa of Calcutta Dining Room, also part of St. Francis Seraph Ministries. 

Clinicians and volunteers warmly welcome guests to have their feet washed and treated. Between eight and 10 guests are seen each afternoon. Some are referrals from the Center for Respite Care, another ministry housed at St. Anthony Center, established in 2017 to house a variety of collaborative non-profits geared toward meeting the basic needs of the community’s most vulnerable in the tradition of the Franciscan friars.  


A smiling woman wearing a red apron and pink gloves over her clothes trims the nails of an outstretched foot.

The staff at Foot Care for the Souls gently washes and treats the feet of their guests. In this photo, Beverly Clayton, program director, tends to a guest. (Photo courtesy of Leigh Taylor Photography)

A person wearing a black coat and a gray hat smiles with their arms thrown wide

A happy guest celebrates the care she received. (Photo courtesy of Leigh Taylor Photography)

A pair of feet soak in a basin filled with sudsy water

Guests begin each visit with a foot soak, nail trimming and quiet conversation. (Photo courtesy of Leigh Taylor Photography)

Pain relief and a listening ear for guests 

When guest Mickey arrived for care on a recent Thursday afternoon, she was greeted by a cheerful volunteer who asked, “How are you?” “I’m blessed,” Mickey responded, explaining she had visited Foot Care for the Souls last October and was returning for pain and cramps in her feet. The volunteer began with the standard foot soak and nail trimming while engaging in quiet conversation with Mickey to obtain more information.  

“I like coming here because it’s calm and relaxing and I’m treated with dignity and respect,” Mickey said.  

Guests are usually experiencing such issues as callouses, ingrown toenails, fungus, skin breakdowns or other more serious conditions that can be treated there, explained Beverly, a nurse practitioner. The ministry’s unhoused guests spend hours on their feet each day, often walking for miles in the bitter cold or extreme heat, sometimes wearing shoes that are the wrong size or worn out. Beverly has assisted guests with cuts on their feet, nails so long they could barely walk, and even frostbite.  

She recalls one man, named Eric, who arrived with extremely dry, cracked skin. “It was almost like alligator skin,” Beverly said. “For him, I will always mix a lot of creams and massage his feet. He comes back now once a week, and his skin is so much healthier.”  

Volunteers remember another situation when a young man came seeking help for severe pain in both feet. 911 was immediately contacted when Beverly discovered he had extreme frostbite and skin damage. Emergency personnel later told her that the treatment he received at Foot Care for the Souls – topical antibiotics and careful wrapping – saved his feet.  

Every guest she treats reminds Beverly that “this is what I love to do. The greatest reward is when someone says, ‘I have new feet,’ or ‘My feet feel so much better,’” she said. “I always say a little prayer over our guests: ‘Lord, be with them today.’ I want better for my neighbor than I want for myself. When I take care of their feet, it’s something that I would want someone to do for me.”


A man wearing pink gloves and a red apron over his clothes provides care for a guest's foot

Dr. Bob Bennett, a retired physician who volunteers his time with Foot Care for the Souls, works with a guest. This ministry, he says, is "Franciscan and Christian to the core." (Photo courtesy of Leigh Taylor Photography)

A volunteer wearing pink gloves and a red apron cares for the foot of a guest

Volunteer Linda Weisgerber’s gentle touch provides relief for a guest. (Photo courtesy of Leigh Taylor Photography)

Modeling Christ and St. Francis through love and service 

Dr. Bob Bennett, a retired family practice physician, has been volunteering at Foot Care for the Souls for seven months and describes the ministry as “Franciscan and Christian to the core. I think what we’re doing here is exactly what St. Francis talked about it. We’re touching and interacting with people with so much care and appreciate each person as embodying the image of God. Connecting with the people we serve and hearing their stories has been a blessing for me.”  

Each guest leaves Foot Care for the Souls with a fresh pair of socks, and new shoes are distributed once a year. Guests also depart free of pain and knowing that they matter.  

“Transformational. That’s the only word for it,” said Mary Pat Raupach, St. Francis Seraph Ministries executive director. “There have been individuals that have come into the lobby upset and in pain, then they come to our clinic and come out with serenity on their faces. It’s because of the environment of compassion that Beverly and the volunteers have created in that space. There’s a sense of community that forms here.”  

“We model St. Francis in so many ways here: caring for others, easing pain, providing comfort,” she added. “We stand with the poor. That’s why we're here.”   

Foot Care for the Souls is just one of the programs managed by St. Francis Seraph Ministries, located at 1615 Republic St., Cincinnati, Ohio, 45202. In addition to the dining room, a bag lunch program provides pre-packaged sandwiches to those in need, and the Sarah Center offers sewing and jewelry classes, enabling participants to develop new skills, share their talents with others and earn additional income. Volunteers are needed in a variety of areas. For more information, visit St. Francis Seraph Ministries' website