Mike Eliou could well sing Johnny Cash’s song “I’ve Been Everywhere.”
Within Pittsburgh Mercy Intellectual Disabilities Services, he’s worked at Wexford, Brookline, Crafton, Kathleen, finally ending up as a counselor at Harmening Community Living Arrangement (CLA) in Baldwin. All those stops were after he began his career in 1987 at Northern Southwest Community Mental Health/Mental Retardation (MH/MR) Services, which eventually became part of Pittsburgh Mercy.
“It is rare employees like Mike who are forgotten or never noticed as they serve as the quiet and reverent backbone of Pittsburgh Mercy,” says Justin Moran, team lead at Harmening and Wolfe Community Living Arrangements (CLAs). “While frequently in the spotlight while helping others as a Christian minister, Mike’s job at Pittsburgh Mercy requires humility, diligence, and sacrifice to do a job well done while going largely unnoticed.”
For his steady commitment and presence in the lives of persons served, Moran nominated Eliou as the Pittsburgh Mercy Colleague of the Month for July 2022. Eliou was surprised when Pittsburgh Mercy President and CEO Tony Beltran and other members of the leadership team, including Michael Turk, Gail Quigley Smith, Dorothy Hope, and Moran, showed up for a porch visit to present the award. Eliou received a gift package, certificate, and a monetary award.
With 35 years of service and retirement age creeping closer, Eliou is envisioning Florida as a next stop in his career journey. But he says his work here is not done – at least, not yet.
“The hidden Christian zeal, compassion, blood, sweat, and tears that Mike has unleashed on every person he meets will reverberate through the channels at Pittsburgh Mercy for years to come,” Moran says. “This is because Mike’s role model is Jesus Christ, and Mike touches any and every one who he comes into contact with every day.”
Eliou’s career started when a woman approached him at church and mentioned that Northern Southwest MH/MR needed staff members.
“It began with me assisting two individuals,” he says. “I only worked with them a short time, but whenever I see them, they both still recognize me.”
When Eliou told his site supervisor he couldn’t work a Sunday morning shift because of church, she offered a solution: take the two men to church with him.
“The first thing the pastor said was does anyone need prayer,” he says, noting that both men raised their hands. “The pastor asked one what he needed prayer for … and he answered, ‘I want to see my mommy.’ The whole church was touched by him, for many were in tears! Through all these years, he has never, never, never forgotten.”
Eliou has served as an associate pastor at a North Hills church, where he was involved in a variety of outreach ministries. He now is a coleader of a life group that meets Wednesday evenings at Allison Park Church in Hampton Township. Eliou works overnights so he can assist with church ministry during the day, when he is not at work, Moran says.
“Mike has become an expert at keeping his CLAs in order,” Moran continues. “Cleaning, organizing, and cooking are his main areas of expertise. He is so good at these that his efforts and work ethic rub off on his coworkers who end up emulating him. He also always goes the extra mile.”
At times, Eliou has served unofficially as a residential care advisor and medical/financial specialist without any prior training. He has cleaned out attics and garages, weeded entire large yards, kept vehicles clean, grocery shopped, and more. Eliou says he’s become good at making his specialty for the residents – breakfast.
“He once carried an old couch out for refuse pickup by himself,” Moran says. “I could go on all day with the amount of extra work that Mike completes all done with a smile and infectiously positive personality. The persons served all absolutely love Mike, as he treats them as his own. He has an innate ability to kid and tease to bring out the best and sense of humor in the individuals Pittsburgh Mercy serves. And what could be more important than that in today’s dark world environment?”
The job has worked out so well with Eliou being able to help others, including his family; given him an opportunity to also minster on his days off; and at other times, the ability to work on a few properties and build a new home.
“The years have gone by quickly, and I have no regrets in working with the less fortunate,” he says. “I believe that those who give their time in helping others who cannot return the favor will be rewarded, especially in heaven. Proverbs 19:17 says, ‘Those who are gracious to the poor lend to the Lord, and the Lord will fully repay them.’ My ultimate desire/goal is to hear my Lord and Savior say to me one day, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant,’ [a reference to Matthew 25:23].”
Editor’s note: Eliou invites interested colleagues to the life group he leads on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. at Allison Park Church, 2326 Duncan Avenue, Allison Park, PA 15101. All adults are welcome. Child care provided.