CINCINNATI — If you go to Christ Church Cathedral every Tuesday, you’ll come across Mike Bootes. The retired construction worker now works around the clock serving free food to anyone who needs it — even through the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We haven’t missed a beat,” Bootes said. “It was mostly scratch your head and act like it’s wet concrete and get busy. I’m a retired construction worker, so you don’t give up on anything just because you run into a difficulty.”
Prior to the coronavirus, Bootes said they served more than 140 people in a spacious room with tables. Now, that shifted into an assembly-line style where only one person at a time is allowed inside after sanitizing their hands.
“I was really surprised how much I missed the chaos of a room full of impatient people,” he said. “To see them outside, all of us regret not getting to know them, not having time with them and almost not seeing them because they fly by, grab a bag while we’re stuffing the next one.”
He noticed a dip in the number of people lining up to pick their bag of food up when COVID-19 began. That dip was also reflected in the number of volunteers who stepped up to help.
“We’ve been a little shorthanded,” Bootes said. “We were averaging about 140 for the sit-down meal in the big room. We immediately dropped off to 80, (which) is our typical with variations as low as 56 and as high as 112.”
Bootes added that their budget, which is usually donated to the Freestore Foodbank, is now going to their chef to help him after he lost his job during the pandemic.
“His heart is as big as he is tall,” he said.
You can find Bootes distributing meals Tuesdays from 5 to 6 p.m. at Christ Church Cathedral; however, they have started serving around 4 p.m. to serve as many people as possible.