“I just want to thank all our associates in Puerto Rico for their amazing resilience and commitment to Arona and Aaron’s,” begins APRO past president and Arona Corp., dba Aaron’s Sales & Lease Ownership owner Mark Connelly. “This has been a long road, and it will continue to be a journey as we progress and move down the road.” In mid-September, Connelly was set to make a trip to Puerto Rico to prepare for the opening of his newest store when he received a call from Arona Corp general and regional manager OT advising him to cancel his plans as Hurricane Maria was approaching the island. OT, whose wife and Arona colleague Maria Acosta Gonzalez and father-in-law were in Miami, had plans of his own that were cancelled. He was slated to travel to Miami to move his family to Puerto Rico but instead had to ride out the storm. Additional members of the Arona Aaron’s Puerto Rico store who also rode out the storm included Denisse Monell and Jesus Rodriguez. Maria was the first Category 4 hurricane to directly impact the island in 85 years, and it caused widespread damage whose effects are still being felt. It also left those on island without power and means of communication for days. “Twelve days had passed and I still had not heard from our team,” remembers Connelly. “I was driving down the road and my phone rang, it was OT! I picked up and he said, “Boss, you have to book me a flight to get back to my wife and family. They still don’t know I’m OK!” and as luck would have it, my wife was in the car and immediately booked him a flight back to Miami.” OT and his cousin had spent hours driving around the island in search of cellphone signal before they could make a call out. OT spent a few weeks in Miami, going back and forth to Puerto Rico, assisting the company. Meanwhile, the other two associates, Monell and Rodriguez, remained on the island helping as much as they could without certainty the store would ever open. “They could have gone back to their previous employer or looked for another job,” Connelly notes. “But they didn’t, they stayed the course. They wanted to be a part of the Arona and Aaron’s Team, and for that we will always be grateful!” Arona Corp., dba Aaron’s Sales & Lease Ownership in Puerto Rico opened its doors last week. They continue to experience power outages, very limited phone service and minimal internet service, “but based on what this team went through, these are just minor issues!” says Connelly. The store currently has 30 customers and is still growing. Its staff has also experienced some growth as Arona Puerto Rico welcomed its newest team member, Luis Pimental. The APRO RTO [Relief To Our] Employee Disaster Relief Fund proved to be a source of relief to RTO employees affected by Hurricane Maria as well as hurricanes Harvey and Irma in 2017. “I want to mention APRO and the amazing thing this organization does for their members,” states Connelly. “APRO’s Employee Disaster Relief Fund helps member company employees get through times like these and thank God for that! The fund was able to help Denisse and Jesus with a little money, which they are very grateful for!” Last year, APRO dispersed over $147,000 on behalf of the RTO Employee Disaster Fund. Since Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria made landfall, APRO has been urging fellow rent-to-own professionals to open their hearts and pocketbooks for the cause. “OT tells me the story where Jesus is following the mail man so he could get these funds which were so greatly needed,” recalls Connelly. “Thanks, APRO!” Click here to contribute to APRO’s RTO Employee Disaster Relief Fund, or contact APRO at 800/204-2776. Click here to see more photos of the Arona Corp., dba Aaron’s Sales & Lease Ownership in Puerto Rico.