The Florida Rental Dealers Association came together for their annual meeting this week in Tampa, FL . This year’s theme was “FloGrown” that stands for “everything Florida”. “We all have our own passions and even our own separate businesses, but at the end of the day we are … #1 – Florida grown and #2 – Florida proud. Even if our corporate offices are somewhere else, we all represent stores that are Florida Grown – stores that have opened up their doors in this great state. And we all represent Florida proud – we are proud of the businesses we work for, the products we carry, the people we work with, the customers we serve, the communities we help build, and the rent to own industry that connects us,” shared FRDA President, Sharon Tomaszewski. “And today it doesn’t matter that different logos and company names may hang over our doors, but what does matter is that we realize that the people in this room are the best that this industry has to offer – not only in terms of running a rent to own store, but in terms of being leaders and representatives for rent to own in Florida.” The event kicked off with a Welcome Reception at Jackson’s Waterside restaurant with floor to ceiling windows overlooking beautiful Tampa Bay and the Channelside district. Immediately following the reception, water taxis were boarded and attendees began FRDA’s Pirate Pub Crawl. After a 40-minute river cruise along downtown Tampa’s Riverwalk, attendees walked the plank to their first stop at Rick’s on the River. From there they boarded streetcar ‘jolly trolleys’ and headed to their next stop, Gaspar’s Grotto in Ybor City. It was an evening filled with fun times, good memories and just a great night of conversation with the FRDA family. This event is a fundraiser to benefit FRDA’s educational scholarships where they were able to raise $5,000. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker, Derrick Brooks, welcomed attendees at the annual meeting. Derrick is also a partner to 26 Buddy’s Home Furnishings stores. FRDA’s two scholarship winners, Caitlin Miller and Abbey Jo Tomaszewski, were also in attendance. Caitlin is the daughter of Keith Miller who has been a manager at Rent King for 13 years. “Caitlin is driven, smart, a pleasure to be around, and will be, without a doubt, a leader throughout her life,” said Sharon. FRDA proudly awarded Caitlin the 2016 Norman Slatton Education Scholarship. FRDA’s second winner, Abbey Jo Tomaszewski, is the daughter of Jim Tomaszewski (husband of FRDA President Sharon Tomaszewski). Her father, Jim, has worked for Rent King for four years, and before that, he worked with Buddy’s Home Furnishings for eight years. “Abbey has an amazing personality, she can make friends the minute she walks in a room, and she wants to spend her life investing in the minds of tomorrow,” shared Sharon. FRDA proudly awarded Abbey the 2016 Terry Beville Education Scholarship. This year FRDA added one more scholarship to their foundation named after longtime FRDA leader Larry Sutton to honor Larry and his passion to serve customers. The Larry Sutton Education Scholarship will be awarded to a rent to own customer who has demonstrated the same achievements as their other scholarship winners. This year’s $2,000 scholarship was awarded to RnR Wheels Customer Tania Villasenor. Tania is a student at Hillsborough Community College and has worked as many as three jobs at once to help put herself through her first year of college. When she arrived in America, she could not speak English, and she has worked tirelessly to overcome that obstacle and many others that her hard-working family has faced. She has been inspired by her parents and how they have overcome their struggles as an immigrant family, and she knows that a good work ethic and a positive attitude are keys to her success. She thanks her teachers and Larry for seeing the potential in her and encouraging her to continue to work hard to reach her dreams. Larry also made a deal with Tania – that if she continues to bring him A’s and B’s, he will continue to pay for her classes. And he backed up that commitment by presenting her with a matching $2,000 scholarship at the annual meeting. Click here to view more photos of FRDA’s 2016 FloGrown Annual Meeting. Click here to read more about Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers linebacker, Derrick Brooks.