There weren’t any actual children at Story Circle’s Roots and Wisdom fundraiser Sunday night.
In fact, the crowd filling Glen Sanders Mansion was largely gray-haired, who enjoyed a few good yarns.
“There once was a stonecutter named Tasucu,” said Kent Busman, leading off a short Chinese parable, “and every day he went out to the great mountain with his hammer and chisel and chip-chip-chipped away.”
It was the type of story associated with nurseries, but the crowd laughed heartily over red wine and fine table settings, waiting for their dinners.
“Oh me, oh my,” Busman said, dangling wind chimes to indicate supernatural happenings.
Through the parable, a dissatisfied Tasucu wishes for unlimited power and turns into the sun and several other forces of nature before realizing that stonecutting was a pretty good job after all.
There may not have been any kids around to enjoy the be-yourself message or any of the other good stories told at Sunday night’s event, but it was still designed to help local kids. A portion of each $32 dinner pass went to benefit the Roots and Wisdom program held every year in the Schenectady Central Park greenhouses.
“We teach between 15 and 30 kids a year how to garden,” said Cornell Cooperative Extension Executive Director Christopher Logue, who runs the program.
Kids leave the program knowing how to grow vegetables, but Logue said it’s more than that.
“There is a small percentage that have a light go on and pursue a career in agriculture,” he said, “but most kids learn community involvement, teamwork and where their food comes from.”
He motioned to his plate of Caesar salad.
“Kids will actually eat this sort of thing after our program.”
Every winter, the Roots and Wisdom program starts out their seedlings in Schenectady Central Park greenhouses. The problem is, a good portion of the extension’s government funding used to keeps up the greenhouses was lost to budget cuts last April.
“Since then, we’ve been doing a lot of fundraisers and grant writing,” Logue said.
Joe Doolittle, who brought Story Circle and the extension together for the event, said the Roots program is having a hard time keeping up with heating costs.
“Right now, the greenhouse has single-pane glass,” he said. “On a cold night, the heat goes right out.”
To save heating costs in the long run, the greenhouses need energy-efficient three-pane glass. Together with a few other planned improvements, it’s a $95,000 project.
Sunday’s event was only expected to bring in a few of those thousands, but just like Busman’s happy stonecutter, Logue plans to keep chipping away, one fundraiser at a time.