Elton Richardson
Einstein Untold: Unsung Heroes and Unknown Stories

Social Worker’s Spiritual Aura Moves Others to Open Their Hearts

By on 02/27/2023

One in an ongoing series

Elton Richardson’s three young children had one request when he took them to the shopping mall:  “Please don’t sit down.”

Often, if he did, strangers sitting next to him would wind up telling tell him their story or asking him to pray. And his children’s shopping spree would have to wait.

Such things happen to Richardson, whether resting on a bench at the mall or standing in line at the deli counter. It’s his capacity to connect, his aura as a spiritual man, that draws people to him. And that includes patients at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery – Jefferson Health, where he is a social worker.  

Richardson’s primary responsibility at work is to determine and discuss a patient’s options when being discharged: To home? To rehab? To hospice? But there are times when he’s called upon to act as a mediator, a pastor, a therapist.

Fortunately, he’s well suited to be all three, both by temperament and training.

From Social Work to the Ministry

For one thing, Richardson is studying for a master’s degree in divinity, so he can become licensed and ordained as a minister of the Church of God. When patients request a prayer – whatever their denomination – he’s more than happy to pray with them.

“You have to wait for the patient to open that door,” he says, “and if they do, I’m willing to go on that journey with them.”

For another, Richardson spent much of his early career as a social worker on a psychiatric ward. He has experience with soul-searching conversations and soothing wounded souls.

He also thinks he has an innate capacity for the work he does that derives from his spirituality.

“There’s something in you that makes you a caregiver and healthcare worker; it’s not something you get in an academic education,” he says.

Richardson is so exceptional at his job that he’s been nominated for two of the highest honors at Jefferson Health – Einstein.

He received a Keeper of the Dream Award in honor of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday in January. And he was one of a handful of employees nominated for the prestigious Korman Family Prize last year. The prize honors the employee who “best represents the qualities found in Einstein Montgomery’s five pillars: Quality, Service, Academics, Diversity and Inclusion, and People,” as it was put by former Einstein Montgomery Chief Operating Officer Beth Duffy.

Although Richardson didn’t win the Korman prize, his photograph and that of other nominees is on display at the hospital.

Richardson has been with the organization for 35 years, having started at Montgomery Hospital before it became part of Einstein. The training for becoming a caretaker started, though, when he was a child.

A Lifetime of Serving Others

“Both of my parents believed in practicing faith at home, practicing social justice and social awareness, taking care of the less fortunate,” he says. “If you’re cleaning your yard, you clean your neighbor’s yard. If you shovel your sidewalk, you shovel your neighbor’s sidewalk. If you see a car broken down on the side of the road, you stop to assist.

“My parents took care of church members who were aging – cleaning their house and doing grocery shopping. We’d do clothing drives in our church or our community.”

Richardson briefly considered medical school but became a social worker instead.  

Several years ago, he says, he got “the call” – from God – to ministry. “After you struggle with the acceptance of what does that mean for me, either you say no or you say yes. It’s a simple matter of saying yes.”

Richardson enrolled at Palmer Theological Seminary of Eastern University. “I want to go school to have a deeper understanding of the best book in town,” he says, speaking, of course, of the Bible.

Richardson is not yet sure what he’ll do when he completes the program in the next couple of years. “I could continue as a participating minister at my home church, teach in Sunday school, preach when asked or have my own church.

“That part is unknown because He hasn’t revealed it,” he says.

In any case, now that his children are grown, Richardson is at least free to sit down at the mall.

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