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NORTH TONAWANDA – Greg Lureman’s interest in studying business drew him to Arizona State University for the program it was well known for.

His love of this city drew him back home when he graduated – and ever since, he has spent a career applying what he learned.

He has worked as a salesman and as a volunteer, fundraising for Babe Ruth baseball and, now, for the building that is home to the food pantry and Meals on Wheels.

When his two sons were young, Lureman increased the sales of the sponsorship signs that lined the league’s baseball field.

His latest challenge: raising the rest of the roughly $150,000 he needs for a new roof at 100 Ridge Road.

“It’s been leaking on and off for years,” said Lureman, 52. “We have to have an adequate roof over their head.”

Lureman is vice president of Twin Cities Community Outreach, the nonprofit group that owns the 25,000-square-foot building that once held two hockey rinks.

The structure was donated to Twin Cities by Benderson Development in the early 1990s. The outreach group has been looking after it ever since.

TCCO – which Lureman pronounces as “Taco” – exists to maintain the building for its three nonprofit tenants: the Inter-Church Food Pantry, Meals on Wheels and the Clothes Closet, an organization that provides clothes for people in need. Twin Cities Outreach also hosts an annual fall theme basket fundraiser.

“That’s how ‘Taco’ was born,” Lureman said. “The whole point is to try to provide a facility at low cost.”

Lureman’s previous success at finding sponsors for Babe Ruth field signs led to this work with Twin Cities Community Outreach. When he started helping with the youth baseball league, it had about 20 sign sponsors. The first year he took over, there were advertisements for 137 restaurants, small businesses and bigger corporations – and about $11,000 in revenue for uniforms and field upgrades.

“I went through customer lists that I had,” he said. “It was all networking.”

Do you remember anything about your studies in Arizona that is still helping you in your volunteer work?

The importance of target markets. Sending the right signal. Targeting your appeal to their interests.

How does that work when you are fundraising for the TCCO building and home for the food pantry and the others?

Everyone knows somebody who has needed one of these services. Everybody knows somebody in that kind of situation.

Without TCCO, these three nonprofits would have a difficult time paying their bills or finding a place to locate out of.

Without us, these folks would have a tough time getting by. So I’ve been trying to promote TCCO to the community.

When people donate to Meals on Wheels or the Food Pantry, they think it’s going to TCCO. It doesn’t work that way. The monies that they get, they can only use on things they need. For a roof check, they would need to make it out to TCCO and send it to us.

What do you like about volunteering with TCCO?

It’s very rewarding. The entire building is made up of volunteers. They are very happy about the repairs and the improvements. There’s lots of thank-yous for fixing this or improving that. We don’t really come into contact with the clients. All we do is really maintain the building. One of the things we’re doing right now is compiling a mailing list. I’ve been spending the bulk of my time compiling for grants.

Where did the money you’ve raised for the roof so far come from?

Two thousand dollars from Niagara County. Six thousand dollars in donations from local churches, individuals.

It’s the largest project that TCCO will probably do in the next 20 years. It’s been encompassing every bit of my free time: 20 to 25 hours a week, nights, weekends. The most important thing is to get the word out about who we are.

Has your volunteer work affected your family?

I guess it’s been a positive thing. Both boys when they were younger volunteered with the theme baskets and cleaning.

I don’t think they wanted to. I don’t think that’s their choice of what to do on a Sunday afternoon.

Carrying and setting up tables, carrying baskets. Loading and unloading, trucks, getting out ladders. Putting signs out … I would drive, and they would get out and place them.

It showed them some volunteerism to help out and benefit people that are less fortunate. My oldest is a college student, my youngest is in the Marines.

They’re both very giving and caring. They go out of their way to bring in the neighbor’s garbage cans and shovel driveways.

My wife, Roseann, is on the board as well. She’s the secretary.

Did you volunteer when you were a kid?

No. I’m not sure there were as many people in need as there are now. When I was a kid there was the Jerry Lewis telethon. More and more we’re noticing there’s a lot of people in need – they become unemployed, and they need the services that our building provides. There’s definitely more need right now. The last three or four years, five years. There’s a lot of people out of work…

What do you do for a living?

I’ve been in industrial sales since I graduated from college. I primarily sell products and services to large factories and plants. Industrial things. It’s what they would call hard parts. … Things that go into people’s machinery. Any plant in the Buffalo area.

Do you ever miss Arizona?

I liked that it was growing. Now I kind of hate that it is growing. It got too big too fast. Now it’s so big that you can’t find anything any more. They didn’t have a baseball team back then. It was all about spring training.

I went all over Arizona. The Grand Canyon is pretty breathtaking. Tombstone, Arizona, was kind of neat. Walking over the border to Mexico. The “Painted Desert.” Arizona is amazing.

Know a Niagara County resident who would make an interesting column? Write to Q&A, The Buffalo News, P.O. Box 100, Buffalo, NY 14240, or email niagaranews@buffnews.com. email: mkearns@buffnews.com