MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — The Grand Strand takes Martin Luther King Jr. Day and gives it a whole week.

Grand Strand Freedom Week is packed with a parade, an awards ceremony and workshops on community issues. 

When it launched in 2005, Freedom Week filled a gap in the city. Community leader Timothy McCray said the week is giving MLK day the spotlight it deserves. 

“The city of Myrtle Beach didn’t take time out to observe Dr. Martin Luther King,” McCray said. “This is why we’re giving people hope and letting them see that there is hope in our community here and the Grand Strand and bringing people together.”

The week kicked off with a parade down Ocean Boulevard and moved into a series of workshops focusing on different community issues. In the past, topics have included diversity, equity and human affairs. This year, the workshops focused on mental health and economic development. 

“We identified what was going on, the posts of the community, and we began to bring those different organizations together to address those issues,” McCray said. 

A highlight of the event each year is the Drum Major Awards and Breakfast Ceremony. This year, two people were recognized for their citizenship and outstanding work in the community. One award is in honor of the late Bennie Swans. 

“That will go to the council member Mike Chesterman, for all of his services that he has done here for 24 years,” McCray said. “Then, we have another award. The community award will go to Mr. Jerome Randall.”

One of McCray’s favorite parts of the week was bringing community church groups together and being joined by the Coastal Carolina University choir. 

“It was very inspirational, and it was very spiritual,” McCray said. 

After 18 years, organizers have the planning for Freedom Week down to a science, but McCray said there is always more than can be done and that big things are in store for next year. 

“We’re taking the old Boys and Girls Club and turning it into a community center here at Myrtle Beach,” McCray said. “We’ll be teaching financial literacy with wellness programs, and economic development will be in that building to make an impact in our community.”