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Speak Story Series begins with fundraiser event

By Staff | Feb 14, 2019

Jim May, left, joins Adam Booth at the Speak Story Series fundraiser, kicking off the seventh season of the series in Shepherdstown. Toni Milbourne

SHEPHERDSTOWN — As the start of the seventh season of the Speak Story Series is about to get underway, a special fundraising event was held Sunday evening at the Shepherdstown Community Club’s War Memorial Building, to help facilitate the continuation of the popular program.

According to founder Adam Booth, since the series began, there have been 50 presentations and at least 40 performances within schools, as part of a public service outreach component of the Speak Story Series.

The series, Booth said, began when people asked him when he was going to tell stories in town.

“I said ‘when you pay me’,” Booth laughed. “That is how I make my living.”

According to Booth, he decided to rent the Shepherdstown Community Club and do a show. He then thought he would do a series by inviting some of his storyteller friends.

“I thought it would be a season and over,” Booth said. “I asked if people wanted more and they said ‘yes’ so I wrote some grants and kept going.”

The first season, Booth said, featured the talents of mostly regional storytellers, but over the past six seasons the scope has broadened to include national and international participants.

About 50 people attended Sunday’s event, welcoming Emmy-award winning storyteller Jim May to Shepherdstown.

May has told his original stories at festivals across the United States, Canada and Europe. His first collection of stories, “The Farm on Nippersink Creek,” a collection of family stories, won an American Public Library Association Best Book Award.

May is from a small farming community outside of Chicago and was the baby of the family.

“The oldest and the youngest get talked to more by the adults,” May said, before the start of his performance. “I lived in a world of older people.”

A full-time storyteller for more than 40 years, May was previously a fifth-grade teacher. He said he shares mostly family stories and personal traditional and inspirational stories.

“I’m drawn to stories of truth,” May said. “They are so important that they were memorized and passed down.”

May shared some of his life history as a way of introduction, before launching into a story of farm life and helping his dad on the farm. Amid much laughter and some sighs for times past, May’s story focused on life as a child not old enough for school, who helped and shared a special bond with his father.

Ticket sales and some grants have continued to fund the Speak Story Series program. Sunday’s event was the second fundraiser specifically held for the series since its founding. The first, Booth said, raised approximately $3,000, so the goal for Sunday was set at $3,500. That goal was topped by intermission, during the event.

Speak committee member John Dupree made the announcement following May’s storytelling session, that funds totaling $3,665 had been raised, and the silent auction held as part of the evening’s fundraising efforts was still open.

“An anonymous donation brought Jim here,” Dupree said. “I don’t know if you’re here, but, thank you.”

Dupree said the donation of the funds, as well as all of the refreshments for Sunday’s event, allowed all monetary proceeds to go to the series’ coffers.