THOMASVILLE — Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, a virtual service to commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day will be held Monday in place of the customary eight-day, 11-event itinerary that marked the occasion in Thomasville as recently as last year.

At 7 p.m. Monday, an hour-long virtual service will be streamed online via the Martin Luther King Social Action Committee website. It kicks off a celebration that will be continued in the month of February with the 2021 MLK Oratorical Contest.

Initiated by the MLK Social Action Committee, the annual holiday celebration is a tradition founder George B. Jackson said the organization wished to continue for its 20th year even as the pandemic threatened its feasibility. Established in 1993, the MLK-SAC implements goals of non-violent elimination of racism, discrimination, hate and injustice, in addition to building upon the community paradigm envisioned by Martin Luther King Jr.

Traditionally, two members of the community are awarded with an annual service award for their commitment to King’s vision as shared by the MLK-SAC. This year, that honor goes to just one.

“Annually, we present the MLK Community Service Award to a male and female who worked behind the scenes,” said Jackson. “This year, with the pandemic’s impact, we only have one.”

The 2021 MLK Service Award recipient is William “Bill” Porter. As the first solo winner of the award, Porter was recognized, Jackson said, for his efforts in recruiting young people and women to get involved in running for local political office.

“His support of women in a real positive way is to be [commended],” Jackson said.

Though this year’s observance will not include traditional programs and in-person attendance, a musical performance and message from a keynote speaker will remain. Jackson said the spirit of the occasion remains the same, and the work from all parties involved.

“I know it’s not our norm, but we’re not in normal times,” Jackson said.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy may be reached at kennedy@tvilletimes.com or 336-888-3578.

Staff writer Daniel Kennedy may be reached at kennedy@tvilletimes.com or 336-888-3578.