APRO Member Gopal Reddy – President and CEO of Action Development Corp., dba Aaron’s – and his wife Tulasi recently contributed $10,000 of their own money to the Central Illinois Foodbank, to help their hungry neighbors this holiday season.

Gopal and Tulasi Reddy give back to the community by donating to the Central Illinois Foodbank with Executive Director Pam Molitoris (left).

The Reddys – who own and operate seven Aaron’s stores in the Central Illinois area – said while there has always been a need for food, the COVID-19 crisis has created an increasing and more urgent need to help people facing hunger. The Reddys wanted to give back to their community during the pandemic by providing food to folks who are struggling.

“We have seen the lines of people waiting for food, and it brings tears to your eyes,” said Tulasi.

“This is the time to give,” Gopal agreed. “It’s a big need this holiday season because of COVID-19. We all should be helping each other.”

The Reddys officially presented their donation to the foodbank on December 8, 2020, at a Springfield, Illinois Aaron’s location run by the couple.

“Gopal and Tulasi Reddys’ personal donation of $10,000 speaks volumes about their commitment to building a stronger community,” said Central Illinois Foodbank Executive Director Pam Molitoris. “Although hunger has always been with us, during the pandemic, the number of those who are food insecure continues to increase dramatically. With the generosity of the Reddys, together we are providing hope for our neighbors.”

RNR’s You’re a Rockstar New Car Giveaway honoree Carrie Hodge with President David Harrison.

Rental Concepts LLC dba RNR Tire Express in Springfield, Missouri, along with manufacturer Nexen Tire, recently held its You’re a Rockstar New Car Giveaway, honoring a local breast-cancer survivor with a brand-new 2020 Buick Encore outfitted with Nexen tires from RNR.

Carrie Renee Hodge was chosen as the grand-prize winner from more than a thousand survivors nominated for the giveaway this year. Hodge received her prize during a small ceremony held at an RNR store in Springfield, Missouri, for Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

“Carrie, for your love and sacrifice, your giving heart and spirit, on behalf of RNR Tire Express and Nexen Tire, we want to present this to you,” said David Harrison, President of Rental Concepts LLC dba RNR Tire Express, Rental Concepts West LLC dba RNR Tire Express and HSAC LLC dba RNR Tire Express.

Nominated by her two children, Hodge was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2012 and fought the disease for two-and-a-half years, undergoing many rounds of chemotherapy and radiation, as well as surgery. Today, she is thankfully cancer-free.

“She had to walk through bitterly hard days and horribly dark hours, but through it all, my mom was a shining example of dignity, grace, hope and faith,” reads her nomination.

A “mama bear in the best sense of the word,” Hodge is also a passionate teacher. “She is a solid pillar of love, compassion and life to so many people,” the nomination continues. “She makes every birthday, holiday and event special, exciting and unforgettable with her brilliantly creative ideas, careful planning and go-big-or-go-home attitude – not only for our family, but for each of her students and their families as well.”

Hodge’s many cancer treatments and procedures left the family struggling financially. A large part of her job includes driving between many students’ houses every day to provide homebound teaching services for students who are unable to attend school in person. She had been driving a 19-year-old hand-me-down vehicle with continuous issues. Now, thanks to RNR and Nexen, Hodge has reliable transportation and arrives in rock-star style!

Two other survivors and single moms were also deservingly honored by RNR Tire Express, each winning $1,000 cash, a VIP spa day package, and brand-new tires.

Sandra Arredondo of Sebring, Florida, is a single mother of two who was diagnosed at 30 years old with Stage 4 breast cancer, just after unexpectedly losing her fiancé. Arrendondo underwent several rounds of intensive radiation and chemotherapy, a double mastectomy, several reconstructive surgeries and – because she carries the BRCA mutation – a full hysterectomy. Amidst her treatment, her home was badly damaged by Hurricane Emma and Arrendondo lost her mother to lung cancer.

“Despite all of this, she has sown great resilience, and continues to remain positive and grateful,” reads her nomination. “She is the epitome of brave, and most definitely a survivor.”

Kimberly Anderson of Anderson, Indiana, is a single mom and art teacher who put herself through college while raising two boys – one with special needs – and fighting breast cancer. Today, she is a vocal advocate for breast-cancer awareness.

“Even with all that has happened to her, [Anderson] always has an optimistic outlook on life,” reads her nomination. “Her friends sing her praises, about how amazing she is and how she deserves something nice.”

Misty and Brian Grow of Growby’s LLC, dba Growby’s RTO, an ARPO member, along with other organizers, held the seventh annual Dumon McCain Memorial Ride. The fundraiser benefited three-year-old Easton Ritchison and his family, with $9,000 raised.

Recipient, Easton Ritchison, was diagnosed at birth with cri-du-chat syndrome, a chromosomal condition from a missing piece of the fifth chromosome. Recently, Ritchison survived a surgical error from a previous doctor, which has made his life more difficult. These situations now require Ritchison to have around-the-clock care from his mother, Jessica Carter.

“It was really touch-and-go for a while [with Easton],” Carter said in a recent news publication. “We’ve been shown so much love and support from the community. It’s the most humbling thing ever after what we’ve been through, and I’m eternally grateful,” Carter said after hearing her family would be this year’s beneficiary.

$9,000 was raised for Ritchison and his family through donations, a raffle, a live auction, ticket sales, and a local restaurant’s commitment of five percent of all sales it earned that day. 97 motorcycles rode this year, and the event is the second-highest amount raised for a family.

“We were worried about all of the changes we had to make to the event because of the pandemic. We even had to move our original date around, and we didn’t ask as much from local businesses as we normally do,” said Brian Grow. “Even though it was difficult, I’m very thankful for the community for stepping up and make this year’s ride a success!”

Each year these couples organize the ride: Amy and husband, Byron Amaya; the Grow’s; and Rachel with husband Morgan Lee, Captain of the Bedford Police Department. The Dumon McCain Memorial Ride is one of the longest-running memorial rides in the state. It honors Amy Amaya’s lost son, Dumon McCain.

“It keeps Dumon’s memory alive, plus it’s heartwarming to see friends and family come out to the event each year,” said Misty Grow. “The support of the community and the love from the recipient’s family highlight what this event is truly about, compassion and humility.”

Those interested can learn more about the beneficiary through their Facebook page, For the Love of Easton. The family also has a GoFundMe page dedicated to Ritchison, which can be found here. Locals in Indiana can follow the annual memorial ride through their Facebook page, Dumon McCain Memorial Ride, or reach out to Misty Grow on Facebook to stay updated.

APRO member Easy 2 Own Furnishings, located in Bluffton, South Carolina, presented APRO Charitable Foundation Scholarship recipient, AJ Kestler, his award and check. Easy 2 Own Furnishings Owner, Michael Bennett, presented AJ with his award. Easy 2 Own Furnishings manager, Ed Kestler, gave his son, AJ, his award.

AJ graduated from River High School in May at the top 20% of his class. His future college plans include attending the University of South Carolina as a business major. “We are looking forward to his continued success as he continues his education!” said Bennett.

For more than a decade, the APRO Charitable Foundation Scholarship Fund awarded more than 385 scholarships totaling more than $875,750. This year the foundation awarded 32 recipients with various scholarship sizes with the support of three state associations, the Florida Rental Dealers Association, the Kansas Rental Dealers Association, and the Tennessee Rental Dealers Association. These scholarships are made possible because of APRO member donations and the Society of Tomorrow donors’ continued support.

The Kansas Rental Dealers Association donated $5,000 to help kids across Kansas. The donation was made to Food-4-Kids, which provides food to kids who need it.

Angela Strong-McCool, President of the Kansas Rental Dealers Association, noticed an increase in vehicles waiting in line for food at schools in her hometown. She decided to see if she and other KRDA members could help. Research led her to Food-4-Kids, and after discussions with Director Debi Kreutzman, she decided this was the best way for KRDA to help local communities across Kansas.

Food-4-Kids is a program of the Kansas Foodbank (www.kansasfoodbank.org). Its mission is to help students who are food insecure to get the food they need. They supply food to Kansas community schools, which then distribute it to kids who need it. Currently, Food-4-Kids feeds more than 6,400 children across Kansas and is expecting a 48% increase once the school year begins.

Strong-McCool explains, “Once I identified the need in our local community, I reached out to a few other dealers with my desire to help this organization. We knew that the need was statewide and that this was the best place to help as many kids as we possibly could within our state.”

She presented the idea to the KRDA board, which resoundingly approved, and she coordinated donations totaling $5,000, which was presented to Food-4-Kids at the end of July.

Thank you, Angela Strong-McCool and the Kansas Rental Dealers Association for making a real difference in the lives of children in your communities.

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.

The 150th home by WDC went to Newark resident Beatrice McKay, a Liberian refugee and mother of two.

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.

Left to Right – Aaron Windsor, Vice Pres of MRDA and Operations Officer of National TV; Convoy of Hope Volunteer Director, Scott Mitchell; MRDA President and All-American Rental & Sales CEO, Macy Mitchell; Chief Operations Officer All American Rental & Sales.

“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.

Left to Right – Terry Thompson, Tina Rauch, Teresa Thompson, Arnold Rauch, Victor Miller, Liz Mitchell, Scott Mitchell, Macy Mitchell, Preston Duggers.