By Jill Keppeler
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — Just because Twin Cities Community Outreach’s symbol is an umbrella doesn’t mean the group wants to have to use them in its building.
For years, TCCO has dealt with leaks in the roof of its building on Ridge Road as they came, but as the cost of repairs — $8,000 here, $12,000 there, $5,000 there — mounted, it became apparent that the issues needed to be dealt with in a more long-term manner.
“We patched, and we patched, and then repatched again,” said Greg Lureman, vice president of TCCO. “In a way, we’re throwing good money after bad. It’s not a long-term solution.”
With that in mind, the non-profit is seeking to raise the thousands of dollars needed for a complete roof replacement, thus preserving the building that houses three other non-profit organizations: North Tonawanda Meals-On-Wheels, the NT Inter-Church Food Pantry and the Inter-Church Clothes Closet.
The East Hill Foundation recently awarded TCCO with a grant of $38,000, money which will allow it to replace the building’s lower section of roof, but “the lion’s share” of the roof. A space about 95 by 218 feet, Lureman said, will still be in need of repair. That’s a job that will cost an estimated $125,000 to $150,000.
The group is applying for grants and sending out mailings, and has successfully raised about $7,000 raised in a month and a half, Lureman said, primarily from churches and individuals. Still, there’s a long road to go.
“Any amount helps,” he said. “They don’t all have to be $500 checks. All the $20 and $25 checks add up to hundreds and thousands. It adds up.”
Lureman estimates that the group has spent $35,000 on the patch jobs over the past five years, money that could simply have gone toward solving the problem for 20 years or so into the future.
“It’s not cost-effective, but when you don’t have the money, you get the umbrella out,” he said. “Once it’s done, we’re probably good for some time. It’s so important to get it done right. We’re just wasting money at this point, although it’s out of necessity.”
Wasting money is not something the organization wants — or can afford — to do.
TCCO, which is run by an all-volunteer board, was started in 1988, and became incorporated and tax-exempt in 1991, Lureman said. Its entire purpose is to provide a home for its three community outreach programs under one roof, smoothing the road for them by paying all utility bills and maintaining the building. It also maintains one small office in the large building.
“The reason we came to exist ... all these organizations operated out of churches, primarily, wherever they could,” he said. “It was pretty expensive to cope with all those utility bills. The idea for TCCO was born out of that.”
The building on Ridge Road, a former hockey rink, was donated to the group for $1 by Benderson Development. The facility, which is also occupied by the NT school district transportation department, has been fixed up a lot over the years. But the bills, even without the roof issues, add up — Lureman said that the electric bills can be $1,500 a month, and gas bills reach $1,000 in the winter.
The organizations in the building include the Inter-Church Clothes Closet, with its racks of clothing and shelves of shoes, housewares and children’s items for those in need; North Tonawanda Meals on Wheels, where cooks and volunteers prepare about 130 meals a day; and the Inter-Church Food Pantry, with its waiting room and behind-the-scenes area lined neatly with canned goods, paper products and other items, stockroom and more.
Bonnie Shaffer, coordinator of the food pantry, said that remaining under the umbrella of TCCO is important for the organization.
“If we had to move, we wouldn’t be able to be together, and that would make it a difficult situation,” she said of the pantry’s clients, who don’t always have reliable transportation. “I’m just very supportive and appreciative of what TCCO has done for us.”
Pam Hill, head cook for NT Meals on Wheels, said that before the move to the Ridge Road building, each group was in a different location, often in a situation where it was a tight squeeze.
“Now this is one-stop shopping for people,” she said. “They give us the opportunity for this whole new kitchen ... They gave us a home.”
Once the roof is replaced, Lureman’s hopes for TCCO’s future include a back-up generator, the better to avoid the catastrophe of the 2006 October storm, when Meals on Wheels and the food pantry lost thousands of dollars worth food during the power outage.
“Most people know of somebody” who has been helped by the outreach groups, he said. “That’s why we’re hoping by reaching out to the community, people will remember that.”TO HELP • Donations can be sent to Twin Cities Community Outreach Inc., 100 Ridge Road, North Tonawanda NY 14120. • For more information, call Greg Lureman at 695-7718 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.