Freedom Readers growing its after-school tutoring programs

By The Editorial Board

Freedom Readers, an after-school tutoring program for youngsters in kindergarten through fifth grade, has grown to nearly a dozen sites from a modest beginning in two Conway locations.

Tracy Bailey, founder and executive director, started Freedom Readers six and a half years ago in Darden Terrace and Huckabee Heights, sites of the Conway Housing Authority. This week, as the fall session begins, the Conway sites continue, along with four others in Horry County, four programs at three sites in Georgetown County and one in Richland County. The latter was started by a volunteer who had been involved in Georgetown and moved to the Columbia area.

The goal is 20 tutors for each of the 11 programs to serve more than 200 young scholars. “We’re very close right now,” Bailey says. This past weekend, about 30 new tutors received orientation from Jamia Richmond of Coastal Carolina University, who is director of volunteer training for Freedom Readers. This week the new tutors will meet the many holdover tutors, a handful of whom have served the program since the beginning.

The greatest need for tutors is in Georgetown County, which has programs in Murrells Inlet, Andrews and two in the city of Georgetown. In addition, a new program in southern Georgetown County is close to starting, Bailey says. “The Presidency” is the theme of the fall session.

In August, Freedom Readers promoted raising money via social media (”Go Fund Me”) and reached $8,200 of the $10,000 goal. The fundraising platform has a processing fee of 8 percent, which is favorable compared to some fundraising costs. “The next big fundraiser is in January at Dead Dog Saloon.” The Jan. 23, 2017, “Books and Boogie” event will be the fourth. In addition to bands and food, “five authors will be invited to sign their books.”

Another fundraiser is “Uptown Downtown” in April at Rivertown Bistro in Conway. Burroughs & Chapin is a major sponsor of the event. Freedom Readers also participates in Lowcountry Giving Day in May. Last week, Bailey spoke about Freedom Readers at the First Book luncheon. “We’ve had a great relationship” with First Book.

In addition to the fundraisers, Freedom Readers receives an allocation from the United Way of Horry County and grants from The Chapin Foundation and Waccamaw Community Foundation. The operating budget is about $91,000.

“Lots of people want to support us but can’t be tutors because of their schedules.” One way to help is to adopt a site or program and provide books or snacks. Another avenue for support is sponsorship ($83) of a scholar for a nine-week session. All Freedom Readers programs are listed, with times and locations, on the website FreedomReaders.org.

From modest beginnings, Freedom Readers has expanded its vital reading and tutoring programs and is still growing. Freedom Readers deserves support in both Horry and Georgetown counties.

How to Help

To learn more about Freedom Readers and how to sponsor a site, a scholar, or volunteer as a tutor, visit FreedomReaders.org

An application is available on the website; click on “Get Involved.”

Phone | 843-331-8526