As any member of APRO would know, access to some of the most common household items can affect the quality of life for a customer and potentially impact their future. A computer for school homework for a student, a mattress for that single mother of two or a working refrigerator for a family, are becoming more challenging to purchase for consumers who might not be in the best financial or credit position. Many people are left with no “traditional” payment methods to be able to progress.
A group of retailers and manufacturers are addressing this issue, including APRO member Aaron’s, forming The Open Door Coalition. The Open Door Coalition aims to “support alternative ownership arrangements like lease-to-own that give every family – regardless of their financial status – the opportunity for a better future.”
“Broadening the ability to make key purchases is critical to reducing the opportunity gap,” says Douglas Lindsay, president of Aaron’s, a division of Aaron’s Inc. “Leasing, rent-to-own and other alternative ownership opportunities, can play a big role in improving lives.”
Besides broadening the ability for alternative purchase arrangements for buyers, the coalition also focuses on “better [education for] consumers by providing guidance and information aimed at strengthening their financial status,” and “increase awareness for the critical and positive role that leasing and other alternative ownership opportunities play in improving lives.”
“Many consumers simply aren’t aware of how to best manage their finances,” says Lindsay. “By debunking common credit myths and providing financial tips and best practices, the coalition hopes to empower consumers to better their financial status.”
The coalition’s new website, www.opendoorcoalition.com, shares several real-life stories of individuals recovering from debt, divorce, identity theft and other significant life changes, who felt they made their living situation better by taking advantage of alternative purchase options.
For more than a decade, APRO’s Education Foundation has annually provided scholarships to rent-to-own professionals and their families. APRO members have contributed generously to the association’s Scholarship Fund – awarding 357 scholarships totaling $830,750 to date – to help students connected with RTO pursue their college degrees.
Amarah Howard, a first-year student attending Kent State University in Kent, Ohio, is a fantastic example of the hard-working students who the program has awarded scholarships to in 2019.
One word that might describe Howard: driven. While attending high school, she maintained a demanding schedule as a full time student and athlete, all while working two part-time jobs. She was steadily involved in her church, and an active participant in her high school’s Spanish Club, Student Government, and Pep Club, among others.
Being involved in all of these actives has given Howard a strong sense of responsibility and leadership that she knows will catapult her into shaping the person that she is becoming and help make her mark on this world. When she sets a goal, she speaks it into existence and meets it head on.
Her story is just one of the dozens that generous donations from the RTO community makes possible. Each year, the APRO Scholarship Foundation is able to provide students like Howard the resources they need to take ownership of their futures thanks to your continued support.
Last week, Puerto Rico was hit with its most devastating earthquake in a century. The 6.4 magnitude quake, which was followed by a 6.0 magnitude aftershock, collapsed homes, caused an island-wide power outage and affected thousands of lives, including that of longtime APRO member and owner of Dial RTO Daniel Singh.
“The past few days have been very rough for the island,” he shared.
The quake, which rocked the southern coast, was the latest in more than 950 smaller quakes and aftershocks recorded in the area since December 31, according to a recent U.S. Geological Survey.
Singh’s business is on the south east side in Humacao, about 50 miles from the most severe damage.
“Our area is mostly unaffected by structural damages but we did not have power, internet or phones for a few days. We have been restored and things are back to semi-normal,” Singh added.
Another APRO member with stores on the island, Mark Connelly with Arona Corporation (an Aaron’s franchise), reports that his employees are safe and sound; however, his stores do not have power and are running on generators.
While finding solace in these times with natural disasters is hard, the RTO Employee Disaster Relief Fund was established to help rent-to-own employees recover in these situations. Since 2005, APRO members have contributed to the fund which has dispersed more than $425,000 to those affected by hurricanes, tornadoes and fires. Due to the unfortunate frequency of these natural disasters, APRO’s membership is ready to help RTO employees at any time with its established RTO [Relief To Our] Employees Disaster Relief Fund.
If your company is an APRO member, and you or your employee(s) have been affected by a recent natural disaster, you might qualify for assistance. Click here to apply for assistance and APRO staff will contact you.
APRO member Aaron’s, Inc. and its divisions Aaron’s and Progressive Leasing, joined forces this fall with former NFL greats Kurt Warner and Warrick Dunn to provide furnishings for seven “Homes for the Holidays” surprise presentations, representing a $70,000 commitment to help first-time homeowners.
The donations came in collaboration with Warrick Dunn Charities and Kurt Warner’s First Things First Foundation, two organizations that have counted on Aaron’s as a critical supporter for more than 15 years. The Warrick Dunn Charities helped families in Augusta, Georgia (Sept. 17); Lilburn, Georgia (Oct. 1); St. Petersburg, Florida (Oct. 15); Atlanta, Georgia (Nov. 5); and Nashville, Tennessee (Dec. 17). Meanwhile, the First Things First Foundation changed the life of a family of four in Mesa, Arizona on Nov. 22.
“Homes for the Holidays” celebrates single parents who are actively working to help themselves through first-time homeownership by alleviating the additional financial burdens that can come along with a new home. While the homes themselves are constructed and financed through Habitat for Humanity, the surprise comes when the families discover the houses are fully furnished and stocked thanks to Aaron’s, with Warrick Dunn Charities and the First Things First Foundation also providing down-payment assistance.
“We are so grateful to Warrick Dunn and Kurt Warner, whose tireless work means these families can now proudly call themselves homeowners,” said John Robinson, CEO of Aaron’s, Inc. “These partnerships benefit single parents everywhere, and Aaron’s is honored to help give these deserving families the support they need to truly own the life they want.”
The Missouri Rental Dealers Association (MRDA) continues making this holiday season much brighter for families in need.
In Springfield, MRDA members from All American Rental and Sales, along with National TV Sales & Rental, worked with the international humanitarian-relief organization Convoy of Hope. Volunteers spent their time packing up bags of food for shipment to North Carolina where the bags will be distributed as part of the Carolina Panthers annual Holiday Food Drive.
“We also donate the $1,000 from the MRDA directly to Convoy of Hope to assist with any of their emergent causes around the US,” added Macy Mitchell, APRO member and Vice President of MRDA.
Other MRDA members are giving back, as well. Members from Rental City Inc. and former dealer/board member Chuck Kuluva gave their time to raise $1,000 for Harvesters in Kansas City. In Columbia, team members from Cleek’s Inc. and Rent One provided a couple of hours of community outreach working at Food Bank of Central & Northwest Missouri and presented the organization with a check for $1,000.
“Our donation will enable the Food Bank to purchase and distribute to those in need $21,000 worth of food!” said John Cleek, Jr., past president of MRDA.
MRDA is continually looking for ways to spread holiday cheer this time of year.
Holiday season is upon us, and our friends in the RTO community are warming their hearts by sending in stories of “paying it forward” in their communities. What a great holiday tradition!
Missouri Rental Dealers Association (MRDA) members Bill Wilkerson, Jeremy Phillips and Jerry Pinkley of Show Me Rent to Own, along with Shawn Robey, Melissa Lamar, Scott Houchins, Carolyn Barnett and Robert Lutes from Rent One completed a great community service project in Dexter, Missouri last Thanksgiving week. The MRDA tradition has been gaining momentum for the past four years.
This year the volunteer group partnered with Stoddard County Gospel Mission, a non-profit organization founded in 1990 that strives to help people in time of need. The organization relies entirely on donations and proceeds from a thrift store it manages, with which it feeds approximately 1,000-1,200 people per month. During the holiday season, the mission also puts together special food gift baskets for 1,100 families from its food pantry.
In addition to donating their time to the organization, the group donated a $1,000 MRDA check to the food pantry. According to MRDA, food pantries are usually able to leverage their relationships with food vendors to multiply the value of cash donations up to 21 times when purchasing food for the needy. That’s a lot of holiday gift baskets!
We at APRO wish you all a happy holiday season. Please keep sending us your stories of “paying it forward” in your communities.
APRO member and annual Legislative Conference sponsor, Nationwide Marketing Group celebrated a historic milestone in November, packing the 1,000,000th meal as part of the organization’s international give-back initiative with No Child Hungry.
Launched in 2018, Nationwide’s partnership with No Child Hungry strives to end child hunger around the corner and around the world. Since its inception, the Nationwide community has packed meals at various events around the country, delivering a portion of those packed meals within the local host cities and the rest to children and their families in Haiti and the Bahamas.
“When we first partnered with No Child Hungry to pack meals at our biannual PrimeTime business conference in 2018, I knew that we were creating something incredibly powerful,” recalls Tom Hickman, Nationwide’s president and chief member advocate. “But never at that time did I imagine that we would, as a group, pack 1 million meals in less than two years. However, thanks to our members, we have done just that. Their generosity knows no bounds.”
Local businesses are uniquely positioned to support their neighbors by giving back to those in need, with studies showing that independent retailers donate to community causes at more than twice the rate of national chains. And that dedication is what has most impressed William Lowry, president of No Child Hungry, while working with Nationwide Marketing Group.
“Hunger affects families and children in nearly every community in the United States. But we all know this should not be. We have more than enough food and resources to keep this from happening,” Lowry says. “Nationwide Marketing Group and its members have taken a direct approach to fighting hunger, and the results are amazing. Not just for the scale of the effort or the number of meals packed, but because it represents kids fed. And it’s all about the kids!”
Last month, APRO member RNR Tire Express (RNR) continued its tradition of celebrating strong and inspiring cancer fighters and survivors. As part of its annual breast cancer awareness initiative, RNR encouraged customers and members of the community to nominate breast cancer fighters for their fearlessness and help honor their unmatched feats of strength. Selected from thousands of entries, RNR Tire Express chose to honor deserving women across the country for their incredible courage and determination to never give up.
RNR Corporate recognized one local Tampa resident and breast cancer fighter, Trisha at a surprise reveal event with her family and friends at her local store on Tuesday, November 19. RNR presented her with the ultimate gifts – $1,000 in cash, a complete set of new tires and a full spa day VIP package for both her and her friend who nominated her.
“I remember when the doctor called me to tell me it was cancer, I knew from that moment on my life would never be the same,” Trisha said. “What I couldn’t have ever imagined was the support, love and care that I would receive along the way from family, friends, my community and now RNR Tire Express.”
RNR Tire locations from across the country teamed up to honor breast cancer survivors for the second year in a row. This year’s initiative kicked off in October, asking for participants to share the inspiring survivor stories of their loved ones for a chance to honor one courageous survivor with the surprise of honoring their brave fight against cancer. In addition to the giveaway, RNR donated $5,000 to local cancer treatment facilities and encouraged communities across the nation to support the cause with pink tire displays, uniform, and décor at participating locations.
“Cancer knows no age, no race, no religion, no gender, no economic status. This year alone, more than 260,000 people will be diagnosed with breast cancer,” said Larry Sutton, past APRO board member, and president and founder of RNR. “This is a global problem that deserves a global solution. At RNR, we have the opportunity to make an impact in the fight, and give back to those who have already given up so much, and we are honored to play a small role in helping fight for a cure.”
Founded in 2000 by rent-to-own industry veteran, Larry Sutton, RNR has grown to 126 locations in 24 states. For more information regarding the RNR breast cancer awareness initiative, please visit RNRTires.com.
Happy Holidays! In the spirit of Thanksgiving, we are delighted to share the following story of “paying it forward” from our friends at the Missouri Rental Dealers Association (MRDA).
About four years ago, the MRDA board decided to begin participating in community service projects at food banks throughout the state of Missouri. In addition to two hours of community service, members would give the food bank a check for $1,000 on behalf of MRDA. Since the beginning, they have completed service projects in Columbia, St. Louis (USO), Kansas City, Springfield, Dexter, and Doniphan.
APRO member and MRDA’s Immediate Past President John Cleek, Jr. said, “We are continuing with our community service projects at food banks throughout the state of Missouri.” On November 19, employees from Cleek’s Inc. and Rent One teamed up in Columbia, Missouri, to donate two hours of service and a $1,000 check to the Food Bank of Central and Northeast Missouri. According to Cleek, food banks are often able to leverage their buying power and relationships with food vendors to multiply donations up to 21 times. In other words, MRDA’s $1,000 cash donation could provide up to $21,000 worth of food for those in need this holiday season!
This year’s MRDA member volunteers from Cleek’s Inc. included Joelle Bray, Raseleigh Bryd-Pittman, John Cleek, Jr., Ted Devere, Kim Nolte, Daryl Rhodeman, Lauren Schmidt, Aanye Smith, and Chris Wassonwere. Rent One volunteers included Sierra Garrett, Shawn Oligschlaeger, and Donnie Wilkins. Not only do participating members help families with their donations, but also their volunteerism creates an excellent opportunity for MRDA member companies to join forces and work together for the common good. Through working together, the MRDA community is growing stronger!
We at APRO applaud the community service efforts of MRDA and others like them.
Last week APRO reported a story about giving back to the community. Chris Fiegl and Matthew Radecki of Hometown Rent-to-Own in Salamanca, New York, spend Thanksgiving giving away hundreds of Thanksgiving dinners with all the trimmings to families in need. Now they are challenging their colleagues in the rent-to-own community to share their own stories of paying it forward!
Paying it forward is all about showing gratitude – it’s when you reward someone’s kindness toward you by being kind to someone else – sometimes in similar fashion, or sometimes in an entirely new way. Fiegl and Radecki decided to pay it forward by helping a customer’s family to replace items destroyed in a fire. That positive experience inspired the two to continue paying it forward again and again.
Are you ready to take up the Thanksgiving “Pay It Forward” Challenge? If so, APRO would love to hear how you are paying it forward in your community. We look forward to sharing your stories in the future! Send your stories to firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are grateful to our friends in the rent-to-own community. Happy Thanksgiving to all!