By Guest Columnist MILTON J. LITTLE JR., president of United Way of Greater Atlanta

Metro Atlanta is a place filled with hopes and aspirations, dreams and good intentions. In each of us lies a depth of compassion that shines through even in the most difficult times. In each of us is a desire to share bread when the loaf is nearly gone — spare a nickel when a dime is all we have left.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”

Dr. King was absolutely right; we simply need a spark that lights a flame to be greater. That’s why I am pleased to announce that moving forward we will be known as United Way of Greater Atlanta.

This name change coincides with our new “Be Greater Atlanta” marketing initiative, which is built on the belief that a Greater Atlanta is more than a connected region on a map. It’s a community of connected lives that can do more to make our home a better place to live, work and play.

Milton Little

When someone gives up a seat on MARTA to an elderly or disabled rider (which many of us do) — that’s what it means to Be Greater Atlanta. When you open your home (which one local mother did) to two homeless teens so they wouldn’t have to sleep in abandoned cars or extended-stay motels anymore — that’s what it means to Be Greater Atlanta. Or when you build a home extension and donate blood (which this community did) for a young lady critically injured after zip line accident — that’s what it means to Be Greater Atlanta.

What is now known as United Way of Greater Atlanta got its start in 1905 as Associated Charities when 27-year-old attorney Joseph Logan organized people to raise money, food and coal for those in need during an Atlanta snowstorm. Since then, this institution has gone through several name changes, including: Community Chest, United Appeal and United Way of Metropolitan Atlanta.

Despite these changes, the essence of who we are remains unchanged. United Way of Greater Atlanta rallies a region where people of different ages, races, genders, neighborhoods, political parties, social and economic classes put aside differences for community causes.

We roll up our sleeves and work together to bring hope, opportunity, a warm meal, a roof over the heads of the homeless — everywhere across Greater Atlanta.

That’s what it is all about with United Way — providing vehicles and pathways so that together we can rise up in new and bold ways to change the odds for the vulnerable, so that we can Be Greater Atlanta.

It’s about rallying together with the same spirit and passion that emblazoned the Olympics here in 1996 and drove the Braves to the World Series championship the year before.

These times are a test of our fortitude — how well can we join forces not only for world-class events, but also during difficult times and for critical issues?

So as we roll out our name change, this “Be Greater Atlanta” concept in the coming months — and even our new mobile website — I ask that each of us considers what ‘Greater’ means to us as individuals and how we can embrace it as a personal conduit for action and compassion.

One way to embrace it is to text THRIVE to 80088 to donate $10 to United Way. Be sure to type “Yes” to confirm your donation on the follow-up screen.

Let’s show how we can do more right now to make our home a better place to live, work and play.

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