In his landmark essay, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. expressed a vision of “the beloved community” founded upon justice, equality, and human dignity.

Atria shares these ideals, and we believe uplifting others through acts of service and kindness can move us closer to Dr. King’s vision.

Each year, on the third Monday in January, Atria participates in the MLK Day of Service. It’s an occasion for all of us to use our time, talent, and wisdom to make a positive difference in the world.

Amber McDaniel, Atria’s Divisional Engage Life Director, coordinates MLK Day of Service initiatives across the country that empower residents to shape their local communities.

“Many of our residents lived through the civil rights movement. Their voices carry its lessons forward to other generations,” Amber said. “In the past, we’ve honored MLK through education, lectures and commemorations in our communities. We’ll continue to do that at Atria, but in recent years we’ve also added a focus on service opportunities to put these values to work in the world.”

Atria residents at Mulberry Estates, for example, volunteered their MLK Day at Riverside Mission, an organization dedicated to helping those struggling with addiction and poverty.

“I find it’s helpful to me and helpful to other people if I go out there and do my part,” said Lillian, an Atria resident. She, and others from her community, filled baskets with warm gloves, hats and blankets to donate to those in emergency need. “Luckily, I’m able to do that at 88,” Lillian said. “It does one’s heart good to know you’re helping people.”

Margarette and residents of Atria at the Arboretum marked the occasion by visiting a local elementary school in support of students participating in an oratory competition – the theme was “The Dream: Uniting Together to Make It a Reality.”

A retired teacher, Margarette was the first African-American instructor at her school in Plano, Texas. Through creative essays, projects and even dress-up contests, she instilled her passion for the history of the civil rights movement in her students.

“My favorite quote of Dr. King’s is, ‘You just have to take the first step. You don’t have to see the whole staircase.’ To me, that means you should take the first step with confidence,” Margarette said. “You’ll reach your destination if you continue step by step.”

To empower residents to take the steps most meaningful to them, Amber and others on Atria’s Engage Life team provide many avenues of community service.

Residents of Holiday Cowhorn Creek Estates, for instance, put together school supply bags for local high school students in need. At Atria Lincoln Place, residents read books about the civil rights movement to elementary school students. Those at Atria Del Rey prepared care kits to donate to a local rehabilitation shelter.

“We look for ways to support the totality of MLK’s dream,” Amber said. “Whether it’s reaching out to underserved communities or teaching the next generation about the importance of equality in education and health care, Atria puts our residents in a position to share their talents and experiences with the world.”