Freedom Readers began in October 2009 with one person’s dream of seeing smart, articulate young people reach their full potential. Tracy Bailey, a student in the doctoral program at USC and educational consultant with a long history of community service, decided that instead of focusing on the shortcomings of our youth, she would attempt to unite the community around children’s strengths. She approached the pastor of her church, Christ Community Church located in Conway, and the two found that their passions were aligned. With the full support and approval of the church leadership, she invited members of the congregation to join the effort in November 2009.
After speaking with the Conway Housing Authority and Conway elementary schools, permission was granted to begin the program at the Darden Terrace and Huckabee Heights communities.
The Freedom Readers Board of Directors was established on May 5, 2010. The first Executive Committee consisted of Dr. Janis Chesson (Chair), Pat Robson (Vice Chair), and Ken Small (Treasurer and Secretary). Several community members oversaw committees such as Community/Parents, Publicity/Outreach, and Volunteer Training.
Freedom Readers has always gained funding through grants, donations, and fundraising events. Several important grants that have been received, including three from First Book of Horry County. We have had several book drives through local area Chambers of Commerce, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million. Another important fundraising event was the 2011 Myrtle Beach marathon in which several runners raised funds for Freedom Readers. Our first signature event, The Freedom Readers Fund Raising Dinner and Silent Auction was held on April 22, 2013.
Freedom readers received its 501(c)(3) status from the IRS in October 2010 and its Certificate of Incorporation, Nonprofit Corporation from the state of South Carolina in May 2010.