Opinion: A season for both thanksgiving and reflection

United Way of Greater Atlanta/Contributed
United Way of Greater Atlanta/Contributed

It’s been a tough year, filled with both loss and unprecedented crisis. For many Greater Atlanta residents, the pandemic added to an already difficult battle many were waging with health and economic well-being in a city that has long struggled with worrisome inequities.

But despite all the tragedy, I remain hopeful. Amid the trials of 2020, our community also displayed resilience and the values of unity, diligence and selflessness in ways few ever could have.

Milton J. Little Jr.
Milton J. Little Jr.

Credit: contributed

Credit: contributed

In mid-March, United Way of Greater Atlanta and the Community Foundation for Greater Atlanta established the Greater Atlanta COVID-19 Response and Recovery Fund to channel resources to nonprofits that were on the frontlines of our region’s COVID-19 response efforts.

The success of this undertaking directly depended upon the generosity of our Greater Atlanta residents and the ingenuity of our nonprofit community. The challenges COVID-19 presented were unlike any we had ever seen before and required immediate, undivided attention. The room for error was razor-thin. Lives hung in the balance.

Unsurprisingly, our Greater Atlanta community rose to the occasion.

Thousands of individual donors – some of whom were likely facing their own hardships – prioritized the well-being of others and supported our region’s COVID-19 relief efforts with unparalleled generosity.

Many folks contributed by donating their unique talents. In one particular instance, a 17-year-old dancer based out of Sandy Springs organized choreographers, professional dancers, and competitive dancers from across the country to put on a show called “Dancers for COVID-19 Relief.” As a result of their collaboration, they were able to donate more than $2,000 to COVID-19 relief efforts.

Familiar Atlanta faces, never ones to shy away from a challenge, also played their part.

The Robert W. Woodruff Foundation, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation, and the Klump Family Foundation – just to name a few – continued in their well-known tradition of altruism and financially bolstered Greater Atlanta’s response in a massive way.

Trusted Atlanta corporations like Delta Air Lines, Chick-fil-A and the Coca-Cola Foundation stepped up to donate without hesitation. Local mainstays like R. Land created the iconic Wash for ATL fundraising campaign and Best End Brewing found ways to rally portions of the community we hadn’t been able to reach before.

And as a direct consequence of this unrivaled charity, 455 different nonprofits in Greater Atlanta, shouldering the burden of a crippling economic and health crisis, kept their lights on and served residents in whatever ways they could.

The Atlanta Community Food Bank expanded its operations to accommodate for the alarming spike in food insecurity across the region. Atlanta Partners for Education distributed laptops and internet access to support their students in the switch to online learning. CHRIS 180 developed telehealth services to offer virtual therapy to those with behavioral health needs. Good Samaritan Health Center remained open to serve as a frontline health facility, while adjusting its sanitation measures to keep COVID-19 cases at bay. The YMCA, recognizing the dwindling availability of childcare options, modified its facilities to safely look after the children of essential workers.

And our medical personnel, educators, agricultural workers, grocery store employees, sanitation professionals, law enforcement officials and countless other essential workers remained on the frontlines, heroically enduring calamity for the sake of our community.

We, as Greater Atlantans, have so much to be thankful for this year. As we approach the holiday season, I implore you all to spread that word of thanks to one another.

For you all, the residents of Greater Atlanta, took it upon yourselves to deeply and genuinely care for your neighbors at a time when our community could not have survived without it.

That leads me to believe that if we choose to, we can orchestrate an equitable recovery that yields a community far stronger than the one that existed before COVID-19. A community where all children and families have the opportunity to reach their greatest potential.

To our corporate, nonprofit, philanthropic, foundational and resident partners: thank you.

May your altruism continue to guide you this year and the next and may we all remember how much we can accomplish when we choose to live united.

Milton J. Little Jr. is president and CEO of United Way of Greater Atlanta.

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