2018 APRO scholarship recipient William Padua

Poverty might have ended William Padua’s academic dreams before they began. “We had countless nights where we had no food to eat,” Padua recalls of his childhood. As the child of a Puerto Rican mother who moved to the mainland with her three children, Padua’s childhood included stays at shelters and lack of sufficient food. Despite this adversity as a child, Padua is the first person in his family to attend college. He is currently attending Florida International University where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in biology.

A member of the National Honor Society, Padua’s achievements in high school go beyond his GPA. In addition to his long list of academic accolades, Padua was also a dedicated athlete, volunteer, and mentor. He was captain of his school’s baseball team. Padua volunteered for the Ending Community Homeless Coalition (E.C.H.O.) providing groceries for families in need. As a mentor, Padua helped young children at Frost Elementary School. Padua speaks of his community engagement, “[Community involvement] helped me give back to those in need…I was in the same position as an adolescent.”

“Rent-to-Own has laid the stepping stones for my family’s success,” Padua says, citing his mother’s rise from a floor salesperson at Rent King to a manager at Happy’s Home Center. Padua’s father also has a career with the RTO-industry, starting as a delivery driver making minimum wage and living paycheck to paycheck to his current position as a co-owner and district manager for Great Rooms. Padua is straight forward about the importance of the RTO-industry to his life, “To this very day the rent-to-own industry still has tremendous impact on my family’s stability and financial well being.”

Padua is a member of the 2018 cohort receiving funding from the APRO Education Foundation’s Scholarship Fund. He is among a cohort of 47 students given over $110,000 worth from APRO and state rental dealer associations in Florida, Kansas, Missouri, and Tennessee. The APRO Education Foundation Scholarship Fund’s mission of helping futures leaders take ownership of their dreams is only possible thanks to the generosity of our donors. Thank you for your continued support, and we hope you will take a moment to support the next group of emerging leaders from our RTO-family by donating today.

2018 APRO scholarship recipient
Elyse Serrano

The admissions office, campus dormitories, local Lakeland churches, or Kenya, wherever the setting, APRO Education Foundation scholarship student Elyse Serrano understands the value of engaging with members of the community. The fourth-year student pursuing degrees in Accounting and Finance at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, learned the value of engaging through personal relationships from her father Anthony Serrano, an RTO industry veteran of more than 20 years. In her final year at Southeastern University, Serrano is approaching the first major milestone on her path toward a Masters degree, a CPA certification, and ultimately lifting people out of the cycle of poverty.

Serrano credits her father’s work with Aaron’s with teaching her the importance of human relationships and community engagement. “I personally have heard stories of people who have been costumers of my dad’s for years and often follow him when he moves store to store,” Serrano says of her father’s ties to the community. Describing the central tenet of her father’s business, Serrano notes, “Customers are viewed as family instead of dollar signs.” As a front row witness to how the RTO industry’s focus on building up rapport with their customers, Serrano understands the importance of ongoing engagement. 

This insight has fueled Serrano’s remarkable academic career, where she has combined her work ethic with enthusiastic participation in community efforts. Serrano is a vital member of the Southeastern University community, hosting campus tours for prospective students as part of the Admissions Office, in addition to serving as a mentor and confidante for other students through her role as a Resident Assistant.

Outside of the university, Serrano has assisted the Lakeland community’s churches in recovery efforts after Hurricane Irma, as well as working for the 410 Bridge organization in Kenya. Serrano will be taking an internship with PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP over the coming summer as she studies toward acquiring her CPA certification.

Serrano is a member of the 2018 cohort receiving funding from the APRO Education Foundation’s Scholarship Fund. She is among a cohort of 47 students given more than $110,000 worth from APRO and state rental dealer associations in Florida, Kansas, Missouri, and Tennessee. The APRO Education Foundation Scholarship Fund’s mission of helping future leaders take ownership of their dreams is only possible thanks to the generosity of our donors. Thank you for your continued support, and we hope you will take a moment to support the next group of emerging leaders from our RTO-family by donating today.

2018 APRO scholarship recipient Jarred Ford

Meet first-time APRO Education Foundation scholarship recipient, Jarred Ford, grandson of MAJIK Rent To Own Operations Trainer Carol Ann Buckett. He currently attends Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, where he is pursuing a Bachelor of Science in biology with the aspiration to work in occupational therapy. Ford received his first APRO Education Foundation’s Scholarship last summer which he used toward his 2018 fall tuition.

Not a stranger to RTO, Ford mentioned that his Grandmother had been in the retail business for as long as he can remember, first in the retail industry and then rent-to-own. “I learned about new merchandise vs pre-rented product, refurbishing, trade-in credits, collections, commitments, Steri-Fab and the dreaded word, bed bugs!” shares Ford. “With no credit checks to process, customers with no credit, or even damaged credit, can enjoy new products that fit their budget. The best part, they’re under no obligation to keep the product, it’s like test driving a new car. If it’s not quite right, you don’t make the long-term investment.”

Ford graduated high school with a 4.5 grade point average and participated in many extracurricular activities such as band, track and field, National Honor Society, Key Club, and the Yearbook Committee. Ford also held the title of Link Crew Leader for incoming freshman his junior and senior years.

In addition to his school-related activities, Ford was active in his community in Marietta, PA, where he played the drums in the local church youth band and volunteered to feed the homeless at the local food pantry. Through his church, Ford also completed the World Vision 30 Hour Famine project—fasting for a day-and-a-half to raise funds for the hungry.

In 2018, APRO and state rental dealer associations in Florida, Kansas, Missouri and Tennessee awarded 47 students more than $110,000 in college scholarships as part of the APRO Education Foundation’s Scholarship Fund. Our scholarship program would not be possible without the generous support of donors throughout the year. Thank you for supporting our future leaders in pursuing their dreams through furthering their education. Please continue to help students connected to our RTO-family by supporting the pursuit of their college degree by donating now.

In Atlanta, new homeowner Ronyelle and her 5-year-old son (center) were surprised by former NFL star Warrick Dunn and Aaron’s representatives with a home filled with furniture and electronics just in time to celebrate Christmas, thanks to the combined efforts of Aaron’s, thanks to the combined efforts of Aaron’s, WDC and Atlanta Habitat for Humanity.

Aaron’s and Progressive Leasing recently filled two new homes with furniture, electronics and appliances as a holiday surprise for two single moms in Atlanta and Nashville. This holiday wish come true was part of Aaron’s partnership with the Warrick Dunn Charities (WDC) Homes for the Holidays (HFTH) program, sponsored by former NFL star Warrick Dunn. The WDC HFTH program helps single parents become first-time homeowners.

In Nashville, additional partnerships with Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota’s Motiv8 Foundation and Habitat for Humanity of Greater Nashville helped provide single mother Carrie and her five sons with a new, fully furnished home for the holidays. In Atlanta, Ronyelle and her 5-year-old son were surprised with furnishings and gifts for their home just in time to celebrate Christmas, thanks to the combined efforts of Aaron’s, WDC and Atlanta Habitat for Humanity.

“Aaron’s is thrilled to be working alongside Warrick Dunn, Marcus Mariota and Habitat for Humanity to provide these families with this surprise during one of the most joyous times of the year,” says Aaron’s, Inc. CEO John Robinson. “Carrie and Ronyelle work hard to provide the best for their children; it’s humbling to be a part of providing safe, modern and inviting homes they and their families can truly call their own.”

Carrie works as a forklift operator for a Nashville logistics company, and has long dreamt of having a safe home with enough room for her five boys to grow and aspire to promising futures. Ronyelle worked throughout her pregnancy while earning her medical assistant’s degree in Atlanta; her dream was to offer her son a safe and inspirational environment.

“Carrie’s and Ronyelle’s commitments as single parents – to provide their children with the lives they deserve – make them admirable recipients for our Homes for the Holidays program,” says Warrick Dunn. “I’m so thankful to have the opportunity to work alongside Aaron’s to bring holiday magic to these commendable and hardworking families.”

Aaron’s has been a longtime supporter of WDC initiatives, and has contributed home furnishings, appliances and electronics to the Homes for the Holidays program for the past 15 years.

Everyone needs a little help sometimes, and this holiday season, Ohio-based Countryside Rentals, dba Rent-2-Own [R2O] is lending a hand. APRO Member R2O hosted a virtual holiday wish list on its website, where visitors submitted all they wanted, with no limitations. The company received more than 2,500 submissions from customers throughout Kentucky and Ohio, and yesterday, 34 wishes were granted – one for each of R2O’s store locations.

“Reading through the submissions was incredibly humbling, knowing we were going to grant families their holiday wishes,” says Mike Tissot. R2O CEO and President. Examples of those granted wishes included the following:

  • Michelle Yerian, Manager of R2O Cambridge, OH, presented a longtime customer with a new set of tires. “When we told her, Maggie cried, and so did we!” Yerian says. “She takes care of her grandchildren and rarely does anything for herself. We’re so happy and excited for her!”
  • Over in Amelia, OH, R2O Manager Brad Matthews, gave a customer a laptop for her autistic son, whose computer had been stolen from his backpack. “When we called Stacy, she cried and just thanked us over and over again,” says Matthews. “Knowing we made a difference simply by providing a laptop computer was incredibly rewarding.”
  • R2O’s Zanesville, OH, store gave a 40” TV to a family who had to start over after losing everything. In Grayson, KY, a dining room table was offered to a family who had never had a table big enough for everyone to come together for a holiday meal. And R2O Flemingsburg, KY, presented a cash gift of $250 to a customer whose family is suffering through tough times following her husband’s involvement in a semi-truck accident.

Everyone at R2O’s holiday workshop was overjoyed to help make a positive difference for their customers, especially at this special time of year. “A wish is just a wish until someone grants it,” Tissot concludes. “During the holidays, it takes all of us to help those in need and make a holiday wish come true.”

Pennsylvania-based Majik Rent To Own recently held an employee-driven effort to support their city through donations to the Extraordinary Give. The Extraordinary Give is a one-day virtual fundraising event designed to support community causes, such as health care, education, housing and more. This year, Majik owner Dan Fisher offered his employees the opportunity to participate by either using their “You Earned It” employee rewards program points, or deducting from their paychecks to contribute. Majik pledged to match every employee donation times four; at the end of day, the company had contributed a total of more than $7,000.

“While I have my own charitable causes that I support privately, I really love this type of an event because it allows our co-workers to select their charity of choice and it amplifies their giving,” Fisher shares. “It made them feel good, and made me feel terrifically proud to lead such a group of giving people.”

For years, Majik has included a donation option in its “You Earned It” rewards program, so employees can support charitable causes, such as disaster relief or various nonprofits, and Majik matches whatever amount they donate. This year, employees could also opt to contribute a cash amount deducted from their upcoming paycheck. “I was really proud so many of our co-workers donated their hard-earned rewards points and pay to such a great cause,” affirms Fisher.

Click here to learn more about The Extraordinary Give.

James Bond, Tony Farrell, Joe Gazzo and John Blair present $5,000 to the American Legion of Panama City, FL.

APRO Members PTS Financial Services and Buddy’s Home Furnishings recently partnered to contribute $5,000 to the American Legion of Panama City, FL, in the wake of the town’s devastation from Hurricane Michael. PTS Financial’s John Blair and Tony Farrell, along with Buddy’s James Bond, Joe Gazzo and Mike Zajar, toured the area before presenting their donation – which will be used to help veterans displaced by the storm – to the organization’s officers. “Please help veterans and their families in this community,” requested Farrell as he presented the check to the American Legion Commander.

The group toured the area before presenting their donation

Just days prior, PTS Financial announced the launch of Operation Hire a Vet, a new initiative designed to encourage rent-to-own companies to fill open positions with qualified armed-service veterans.

Click here for more information on the American Legion.

Click here or more information on Operation Hire a Vet.

Jess Fisher – a longtime APRO Member and owner of Kansas-based Mustang Enterprises Inc., dba Hometown Sales Lease – is probably feeling some fatherly pride as his daughter, Michelle Mason Rudolph, pays it forward this holiday season with Treats for the Troops.

Inspired by her two sons, deployed to Turkey and Romania, Michelle created this nonprofit, dedicated to delivering a taste of home via baked goods to soldiers around the world, in 2017. Over the past year-and-a-half, many good community samaritans have joined the cause to contribute flour, sugar, baking supplies, and funding to help cover shipping costs. Generous donations from Advertising Images, Arkansas City, Hometown Rental Purchase, NCTV, and West Kansas Avenue Church of God have helped keep Michelle’s vision moving forward. Elementary-school students have written cards and letters to include in packages, and the Jobs for America’s Graduates program at Augusta High School is helping in the kitchen. The organization won the 2017 Pay It Forward Award, along with a $500 cash prize, for its work.

Last year, Treats for the Troops made more than 3,000 baked goods, and shipped more than 40 boxes over Thanksgiving and Christmas – at a shipping fee of more than $650. This year, the organization has a recipient list of 25 deployed soldiers, and the list continues to grow. If you want to nominate a soldier to receive a goodie box, just click here, or to learn more about Treat for Troops, visit their Facebook Group, Treats for the Troops No-profit, or feel free to contact Michelle Rudolph at michelle@hometownsaleslease.com.

To contribute to Treat for the Troops, just click here, or mail a check payable to Michelle Rudolph to Hometown Sales Lease, 600 N. Walnut, Augusta, KS 67010.


APRO Member Hometown Rent To Own will be giving out free Thanksgiving Feasts to local families in need. Photo by Deb Everts

APRO Member Hometown Rent To Own will be giving out free Thanksgiving Feasts – the fixings for 150 – 200 full holiday meals – to local families in need. The event, scheduled for this Friday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Hometown store in Salamanca, NY, is open to the public. Participants may choose the foods they want, including mashed potatoes, gravy, corn, green beans, stuffing and dinner rolls. Participants will also be given a gift card to Sander’s Markets Parkview, where they can pick up a turkey.

This is the third year Hometown has held this event as a thank-you for its supportive community. Co-owners Christopher Fiegl and Matthew Radecki founded the company four years ago, and Salamanca has helped the business flourish.

“We just want to give back to the community that has done so much for us and made us an overnight success,” says Radecki. “From the time we got the keys and filled up with inventory, we have literally had a line of customers out the door. Thanks to Salamanca, we knew our business was going to work from the very first year.”

Local radio station MIX 101.5 FM will host a live broadcast as the company distributes the Feasts from their storefront and holds several other giveaways during the event.

“The holiday season is especially hard for many people who just can’t afford a big to-do, so we like to help bring families together each year with this event,” Radecki shares. “Last year was a great success, and we hope to keep it growing every year to help more and more people within our community.”

Click here for article about the event from local newspaper The Post-Journal.

High Touch President and CEO Wayne Chambers

APRO associate member High Touch Technologies served as the presenting sponsor of the highly successful tenth annual gala for Envision, an integrated community of people who are blind, low-vision and atypically sighted. The gala, Evening with Envision: Fusion! Destination for the Senses, was held October 27th in Wichita, and delivered a night of fun, food, and fine entertainment.

The gala, Envision’s largest fundraising event of the year, featured High Touch President and CEO, Wayne Chambers, as a guest speaker, which raised more than $372,000 to support Envision’s mission – to improve the quality of life, and provide inspiration and opportunity for people who are blind or visually impaired through employment, outreach, rehabilitation, education and research.

Additional speakers at the event included Envision President and CEO Michael Monteferrante, Blind Chef and Master Chef Season 3 Winner Christine Ha, and former High Touch Technologies Intern Andrew McCleod.

Click here to learn more about Envision.