RTO Support After Hurricane Katrina Serves as a Model for Harvey

Even if your home or business are hundreds of miles from the destructive path that Hurricane Harvey took in late August, the storm has affected you. It’s affected all of us, to varying degrees. (Did you have to wait in line at the gas pump to fill up this week?) For those who have suffered the most—those along the Texas and Louisiana Gulf Coast—help is at hand, and for those who have suffered much less, help is needed.

If any of your RTO employees have been personally displaced or suffered damages due to Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath, please notify APRO as soon as possible. We can help. APRO’s RTO Employee Disaster Relief Fund provides financial support to APRO RTO employees who need assistance after a natural disaster.

To begin the process of determining eligibility and potential disbursement, contact APRO’s Richard May, at 800/204-2776, ext. 104, rmay@rtohq.org, after contacting the owner of the company for which you work. Or click here to complete and submit APRO’s RTO Employee Disaster Relief Fund application.

A total has yet to be determined for the damages that Harvey caused, but as someone who dealt with the aftermath Hurricane Katrina, Baber’s Shannon Strunk knows the likely scenario for many along the coast right now. Mississippi-based Baber’s had 50 Gulf-Coast-state stores in 2005, with hundreds of employees and thousands of customers. “It was devastating,” Strunk says of Katrina’s destruction. “Almost half of our stores were closed for more than two weeks, three of the stores’ buildings were completely decimated or uninhabitable and seven stores directly on the coast had lost most of their customers. A ton of our customers lost everything they had, including our products, because so many homes were destroyed or just gone. You simply can’t buy enough insurance to cover this sort of an event and the impact it has on your company.”

Baber’s Shannon Strunk amidst the damages caused by Hurricane Katrina in 2005

Many Baber’s employees were experiencing extreme personal losses, as well. So, for employees who couldn’t work because their stores were closed, the Strunks continued to pay them, and for employees who could work, the Strunks urged them to return to work as soon as possible.

“We learned that the best way to help our employees was to force them back to work, to get them focused on something,” Strunk explains. “It’s kind of like a car accident—you’re just dazed and don’t know what to do with yourself. At home, they couldn’t do much; but at work, they had a purpose.” Fortunately, after years of hard work, Baber’s rebounded and thrives today.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, APRO members contributed more than $190,000 to help rent-to-own employees get back on their feet. The contributions helped 159 employees recover and led to a permanent fund at APRO specifically for such purposes, the RTO Employee Disaster Relief Fund. It is administered through APRO’s charitable foundation, so all of the contributions are tax exempt. Every dollar raised goes directly to rent-to-own employees in need.

In light of the recent devastation along the Texas coast, APRO is urging RTO professionals to contribute to the fund so that victims of Hurricane Harvey—specifically, employees in the rent-to-own industry—can get the help they need. Please encourage your employees to contribute, as well. A small contribution will make a big difference and will demonstrate yet again that the RTO industry strives to secure the good of others.

“Natural disasters happen all the time, and the big-time organizations, like the American Red Cross, that come in to help with catastrophic events truly care for only a specific area or group,” Strunk asserts. “There’s no one there to pick up the fringe work. I believe that’s a need that will exist forever, and rent-to-own should keep addressing it. It’s great to be a part of an industry with the compassion and generosity to assist its associates and its communities during the worst of times.”

To contribute to APRO’s RTO Employee Disaster Relief Fund, contact Tulisha Wendele at 800/204-2776, ext. 111, twendele@rtohq.org.