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).

Missouri Rental Dealers Association (MRDA) members present Food Bank Executive Director Lindsey Lopez with a $1000 check.

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 WassonwereRent 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 info@rtohq.org.

We are grateful to our friends in the rent-to-own community. Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Matt Radecki and Chris Fiegl

Thanksgiving is around the corner, and many of us are inspired to show our thanks and gratitude in different ways. For Chris Fiegl and Matthew Radecki of Hometown Rent-to-Own in Salamanca, New York, they were inspired with the desire to pay-it-forward and give back to their community. Shortly after Fiegl and Radecki opened their business in 2014, a local customer’s home was destroyed by fire. The customer lost everything, and Fiegl and Radecki helped by replacing some items that were destroyed. That experience fueled the two to continue paying it forward.

The next year, they began their annual Thanksgiving Feast give away. Partnering with Sander’s Market, last year they gave away 150 Thanksgiving dinners with the trimmings. They expect to give at least 200 dinners at this year’s event.

“People are not required to be a customer of ours to participate,” Radecki said. “Everyone is welcome to attend!”

This year, they added on a drawing for $100 and $50 Visa gift cards. To publicize this annual event, a local radio station will be broadcasting from Hometown Rent-to-Own.

According to Radecki, a second store is in the works, and the tradition will continue at both locations.

“As we expand, we’re hoping the Thanksgiving event gets bigger and bigger every year – whether it’s two stores, three or four,” he added. “We want to give away 100 meals at every store location we open.”

Radecki is thankful to Randy Otander, a longtime RTO operator and APRO member, who not only helped the pair start their business, but also continues to be a mentor.

“He provides a wealth of knowledge about the rent-to-own industry,” Radecki shared. “It was Otander’s generosity and help that inspired us to not just be business owners in a community but to be part of the community.”

Hurricane season is in full-gear as the outskirts of Hurricane Dorian travels up the east coast inching toward Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina. Millions of people have already evacuated but for the rest, it is a waiting game.

“The center of Dorian is forecast to move near or over the coast of South Carolina and North Carolina Thursday through Friday morning,” reports the National Hurricane Center.

With more than 625 rent-to-own stores along Florida and the Carolinas, we know the need for help may be critical. If you’re a rent-to-own employee or know someone who is that was affected by the storm, please notify the APRO offices at 800-204-2776 or contact@rtohq.org. We may be able to provide assistance to those who’s stores, homes, or livelihoods were affected. Application for disaster relief assistance may be made by clicking here now or click the “Apply Now” button at the bottom of the page.

The RTO [Relief to Our] Employee Disaster Relief Fund was established to help RTO employees recover from natural disasters. 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, we want to be proactive in helping the people and communities affected the most. Please click here to consider donating so that we can rebuild and respond to those hit by Hurricane Dorian.

Three-time APRO scholarship recipient and 2019 college graduate Trevor Dobbs

The APRO Education Foundation is now accepting applicants for its 2019 scholarship season. Now in its second decade, the program provides opportunities for rent-to-own professionals and their families to attend college. Trevor Dobbs, a three-time scholarship recipient, is not only a first-generation high school graduate but as of May 2019, he is a first-generation college graduate as well. While pursuing a Bachelor’s of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice from the University of Missouri, Trevor filled his time in college with campus activities, study-abroad programs, and student government positions.

Currently, Trevor is a content writer for The Current newspaper, a marketing agent at the startup, ShiftSmart, and tutors online for Chegg Inc. Dobbs plans to pursue a graduate degree in public administration at Erasmus University, the top-ranked public administration program in the Netherlands, in the fall. The program incorporates elements of business, finance, economics, international relations, political science, and law.

Dobbs credits the APRO Education Foundation for helping him achieve his success thus far. “I would not have been able to make all of this happen without the help of APRO and the RTO community,” says Dobbs, son of Thomas Dobbs, who has worked for the industry for almost a decade.

Dobbs’ story is just one of the dozens that generous donations from the RTO community makes possible. For more than a decade, APRO’s Education Foundation has annually provided scholarships to rent-to-own professionals and their families and the time to apply is now. APRO members have contributed generously to the association’s Scholarship Fund – awarding 325 scholarships totaling $759,000 to date – to help students connected with RTO pursue their college degrees. The deadline to apply is this Friday at 5:00 p.m.

A destroyed apartment complex near Scott Kinnear’s Premier Rental-Purchase housing many of his customers.

Tornadoes tore through the Midwest over the last two weeks impacting metropolitan areas such as Dayton, Ohio. While the death toll from the EF4 tornado in Dayton showed a miraculous zero, the structural damage and physical destruction caused by the storm was devastating.

APRO member, former board member and owner of SRKinnear, Inc. dba Premier Rental-Purchase in Dayton, Ohio, Scott Kinnear, had his store touched with fortunately only minor damage while the nearby apartment complexes, home to many of his customers, were destroyed. These customers will likely relocate long-term due to no commitment to rebuild by the complex owners. “As I drove around bearing witness to the hardest hit communities in Dayton, all any of us here at Premier Rental-Purchase could do was be thankful that no one lost their life,” shares Kinnear.

Sadly, one of his employees, Antuan Thortan, was also affected, being displaced from his home. Thortan was able to recover some of his belongings and is now living with his girlfriend’s parents. Along with losing his home, he and many who experienced the same, have to miss work for a few days. FEMA and other local agencies are responding to immediate needs, but more can always be done.

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.

Rent One crew with donated $5,000 to CASA of Williamson County in part of its seventh annual Great Expectations Charity of Choice campaign.

St. Louis-based Rent One kicked off its seventh annual Great Expectations Charity of Choice campaign, once again providing philanthropic grant distributions to a variety of charities across the Midwest.

The annual charity event is driven by voluntary weekly payroll deductions from employees in Rent One’s approximately 100 stores across eleven regions, with pooled donations matched by corporate participation as well as contributions from Rent One’s Larry and Sharon Carrico. The Great Expectations Charity of Choice campaign collected more than $95,000 over the last year for distribution in 2019.

This year’s campaign received significant attention in the local press and news channels such as the Centralia Mt. Vernon Sentinel.

The Charity of Choice campaign will fund grants this year to fourteen charities, four of which are new recipients this year. Returning grant recipients include Camp We We Se Je, CASA of Jefferson County, CASA of Williamson County, Voices for Children, Challenger League Baseball, Boys and Girls Club of Poplar Bluff, River of Hope, Madison County Imagination Library, Shriners Hospitals for Children, and Our Little Haven. New donation recipients for 2019 include Kentucky State Police Trooper Island, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Greater Kansas City, Special Learning Center, and Whiz Kids Oklahoma.

The Charity of Choice campaign donations will be used to meet a variety of specific charitable needs, including camp scholarships; recruiting, training and supervising volunteers; expanding and improving facilities; and purchasing new equipment, books, and computers. Grants this year range from $5000 to $10,000 per charity.

This year’s Charity of Choice campaign received significant attention in the local press and news channels, including the Centralia Mt. Vernon Sentinel and the Jefferson City News Tribune.