Jessica Mahon, R20 Communications Manager; Jill McClure, APRO Executive Director; and contest winner Heather Kitchen at the APRO Legislative Conference Dinner

APRO held a “What’s Your RTO Story?” contest in February awarding the winner with a free trip to Washington, D.C. for its 2019 Legislative Conference last week. We asked our members to submit their most inspiring RTO stories of how the industry has positively impacted their lives and the lives of their employees or customers. This year’s winner was Heather Kitchen, store manager of Rent-2-Own [R2O], and this is her RTO Story:

Heather Kitchen has learned the ins and outs of her local community in Jackson, OH, through a career with local rent-to-own store. Starting as an account manager, Kitchen has worked her way up to the store manager for Rent-2-Own [R2O], seeing the impact her work has on the local community at each step along the way.

R2O is a hub of community involvement for the Jackson community, providing school supplies, clothing drives, and a Christmas Wish List. For Kitchen, a specific Christmas Wish has stayed with her over the years. The wisher wanted to take her mother, a terminal cancer patient, to the beach for one last family trip. The Jackson R2O granted this wish, taking the wisher and her parents to the beach – a little bit of hope in a difficult time. The smile on the mother’s face remains one of Kitchen’s fondest memories in her time at R2O.

Kitchen also credits R2O with giving her a better understanding of the community by providing jobs for the local residents. The Jackson R2O has hired three new employees over a six month period. Two were single mothers, and the last had been unemployed. Seeing the challenges her team members face on a day-to-day basis, Kitchen says the experience has helped her better understand the difficulties of living in a poverty-stricken community like Jackson. She says it has made her better appreciate her blessings and has made her a better person.

Buddy’s Peak Performance award winners and corporate office support personnel

Buddy’s Home Furnishings held its Third Annual Peak Performance Awards Ceremony and Winners Trip March 21-25 in Cancun, Mexico. The company’s peak performers were recognized on a sandy beach at an outdoors awards ceremony followed by three days of fun-filled excursions and closed with a yacht cruise and swim experience with Michael Bennett, COO of Buddy’s Home Furnishings.

Congratulations to this year’s awards winners Ryan Weisenfeld, Region of the Year; Corry Bradford, Store of the Year; and Joe Bob Ellis, Company of the Year!

Click here to see more photos.

APRO associate member J.D. Byrider recently announced it has partnered with HomeNet Automotive to bring SnapLot 360 technology to its store operators to deliver a more transparent online customer experience through immersive vehicle imaging.

With approximately 30 corporate stores and 120 franchise stores in the Buy Here Pay Here auto retail space, J.D. Byrider is working to reimagine what it means to shop for a car in this segment by using new digital technology that helps consumers make a connection with a vehicle online before they enter a store. Using HomeNet’s SnapLot 360 solution will enable J.D. Byrider to deliver on these objectives and help store operators improve online merchandising efforts by boosting vehicle turn and reducing time to market.

Launched earlier this year, HomeNet’s SnapLot 360 is a 360-degree image capture solution that drives increased visibility to dealers’ online sales platforms through an iOS and Android compatible application. Through the app, dealers can capture both exterior and interior 360-degree images and syndicate them to the top website and listing providers in the industry, including and Autotrader. Additionally, the new solution enables dealers to tag specific features as hot spots, helping to increase customer engagement and provide a deeper understanding of the vehicle.

“At J.D. Byrider, we’re invested in being the consumer choice in helping people get a fresh opportunity to finance and own a quality vehicle,” says Marie Lafkiotes, chief marketing and digital officer of J.D. Byrider. “By integrating with SnapLot 360, our store operators will be able to provide an elevated online experience that will separate them from competitors and enable customers to shop our inventory from anywhere on any device easily. This is a key component of our digital transformation.”

A pilot of the SnapLot 360 integration will take place in approximately 12 J.D. Byrider stores, split between corporate and franchise locations. The integration with HomeNet’s flexible inventory platform will enable inventory photos to be housed online and automatically populate on J.D. Byrider website listings. Store operators will also have the ability to display pricing specifics — a key to driving a more transparent experience for consumers. HomeNet’s photo backgrounding, a turnkey image enhancement offering, will also be available to enable dealers to change the background of vehicles to save time on staging, ensure consistency and ease integration with third-party sites.

“Bringing SnapLot 360 to J.D. Byrider is a significant milestone that will help drive greater transparency and engagement in the Buy Here Pay Here shopping experience,” says John Hensman, vice president and general manager of HomeNet. “With SnapLot 360, we’re helping dealers increase trust and enabling consumers to make more informed buying decisions.”

Click here for more information about SnapLot 360

FRDA members meet with Representative Jackie Toledo (R–Tampa, District 60). Pictured L to R: Sharon Tomaszewski, Chris Kale, Sr., Chris Kale, Jr., Rep. Jackie Toledo, and Jan Arnett.

Members of the Florida Rental Dealers Association [FRDA] assembled in Tallahassee on March 27 for the group’s annual legislative conference. Attendees met with state senators and representatives throughout the day after a morning briefing with FRDA Lobbyist to discuss legislative priorities of the current session and to weigh-in on a few items relative to rent-to-own daily practices.

“It’s always a good trip when we can meet with state representatives and simply tell our story,” says Chris Kale, Jr., FRDA board member.

In addition to attending APRO’s Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., members of FRDA have been meeting at their state capitol in part of their grassroots efforts to strengthen bonds with Florida elected officials. FRDA finds that the additional one-on-one meetings make a positive impact on the industry at the state level as well as a whole. “I have been in this business for 40 years and taking the time to meet with these folks goes a long way,” shares longtime FRDA member Jan Arnett, Z-Best Rentals. “Each year we see the benefit of these relationships. It’s a great thing.”

FRDA President Sharon Tomaszewski and FRDA board members will also be in attendance at this week’s APRO Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C., to advocate on behalf of its state association.

APRO’s 2019 Legislative Conference, scheduled for April 9-11 in Washington, D.C., is next week! This year APRO members will attend well over 100 meetings, and out of that total number, 30% of the meetings are scheduled with new lawmakers. Thus far, attendance is representing 23 states and includes 25% first time attendees. Below are a few things to help you prepare for the big event.

Legislative Appointments Email

This week an email was sent to all 2019 Legislative Conference that included the master list of appointments for meetings scheduled on The Hill. A follow-up email will also be sent to all attendees with updates to the master list with team information and links to some of the materials to help you prepare such as state economic impact reports, final legislative conference agenda, leave-behind story cards, and RTO @ a Glance with industry data. 

To see a full schedule and for more information on this year’s Legislative Conference, click here, or contact us at

Jefferson County Mentor Program leadership David Keen, Judge David K. Overstreet, Safe Families Executive Director Christine Taulbee, CASA Executive Director Brenda Torres and CASA Child Advocate Sharon Terry

APRO Hall of Honor recipient David Keen’s, Rent One Public Relations Director, 15-year affiliation with the Mentors 4 Kids program in Southern Illinois recently came to an end as the organization lost its funding for the region. Keen and several prominent individuals and organizations are coming together to reach out to the community for assistance in helping the youth in the area by filling the void with the newly formed Jefferson County Mentor Program.

“There are a lot of needs for both foster kids and to mentor,” says Keen, former Mt. Vernon mayor, and program organizer. “A lot of kids go to school and come home to see their parents doing drugs or going through some type of violence, or they don’t have food. They don’t know a normal life.”

A breakfast to discuss the program and various community needs will be held from 7:30-8:30 a.m. April 8 at Rare Chop House in Mt. Vernon, IL. Speakers at the event will include Jefferson County Presiding Judge Jo Beth Weber, Illinois Appellate Court Justice David K. Overstreet, and APRO scholarship recipient Javontay Moss, who grew up being mentored by Keen since he was five.

“The program allowed me to have a positive male influence in my life that I didn’t have before,” shares Moss who currently attends the University of Southern Indiana and is studying communications and social services. “It has had a direct influence on where I am now.”

The new program will adopt many procedures and framework that the former Mentors 4 Kids organization had but with a focus directly on the youth of Jefferson County. The new program is seeking mentors to take some time every week to help guide children who need a positive influence in their life. Information on how the community can be involved with various agencies will be at the event and will include Angel’s Cove, CASA, Safe Families for Children and Spero Family Services.

“We know there is an absolute need for this program,” says Keen. “We are initiating this meeting to formulate a plan and get the ball rolling.”

High Touch Announces Derrick Nielsen as New President and CEO

APRO associate member High Touch Technologies announced its new President and CEO, Derrick Nielsen, last week. The news comes off the heels of President and CEO Wayne Chambersretirement announcement APRO reported on March 14 after his 15 years at the helm.

Nielsen is no stranger to High Touch or the many on the company’s leadership team. High Touch was a long-term client during his sixteen-year consulting career. He designed and led the company’s strategic planning process from 2009-2014, helping the organization create a vision and strategy to grow and diversify its business. He worked closely with Chambers and the company’s senior leaders as the organization transformed itself into a diversified technology solutions provider.

Nielsen arrives at High Touch following four years as Vice President of People Operations and a member of the executive team at Charles Machine Works, a leading equipment and solutions provider to the underground construction industry. Before joining the company, he also designed and led their strategic planning process for nine years as an outside consultant. “My passion has always been strategy,” says Nielsen. “I love the process of getting people behind a clear, shared and compelling vision of the future. I believe employees don’t just want a paycheck, they want to believe that their hard work makes a difference in their company, and ultimately, in the world. I’m honored and excited to have a chance to work alongside High Touch’s 170 employee-owners to do just that.”

Nielsen’s consulting work with High Touch and Charles Machine Works came during his ten years as Vice President of Organizational Development at Allen, Gibbs and Houlik [AGH] in Wichita. His practice focused primarily on strategic planning and leadership development, working with organizations from a broad range of industries, including telecommunications, manufacturing, construction, banking, technology, not-for-profits, and various trade and industry associations. Nielsen already enjoys strong relationships with some of High Touch’s key customers and community partners from his consulting days.

Nielsen also serves on the board of directors for the Boys and Girls Clubs of South Central Kansas and Harper Industries, a growing diversified manufacturer in Harper, Kansas. He has been an active member of the Wichita Chamber, including facilitating past planning efforts. He is also a past chair, trustee, facilitator and participant of Leadership Wichita. Prior to starting his business career, Nielsen served on Bishop Desmond Tutu’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa, worked in the Washington office of former U.S. Representative Dan Glickman and spent a year as a volunteer teacher in a rural South African high school.

“We’ve been working on this transition plan for years,” states Chambers. “Derrick will fit with the team and continue to be a community supporter which is meaningful to High Touch and its employees.”

Nielsen will work with Chambers through a month-long transition period, meeting with High Touch’s market teams in Corpus Christi, Dallas, Denver, Kansas City, and San Antonio. Chambers will also introduce Nielsen to many High Touch clients and important stakeholders. Chambers believes working alongside Nielsen will help align his outside perspective with the strategic initiatives already being implemented by the company’s strong leadership team. Following Nielsen’s onboarding, Chambers will continue to serve on High Touch’s board of directors.

APRO’s 2019 Legislative Conference reception and dinner will be held at the majestic Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, sponsored by RentDirect Nationwide.

You are cordially invited to join us at the majestic Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center for APRO’s 2019 Legislative Dinner made possible by the sponsorship of RentDirect Nationwide. This unique experience will take place in the building’s rotunda in part of APRO’s 2019 Legislative Conference, scheduled for April 9-11th in Washington, D.C.

On Wednesday evening, after a full day of no-doubt-successful meetings on the Hill, rent-to-own advocates will come together at the Ronald Reagan Building’s rotunda for good food, cool drinks, and a casual debriefing. The building, named for U.S. President Ronald Reagan, is the largest structure in D.C. – at 3.1-million square feet – and is the first and only federal building dedicated to both government and private use. You won’t want to miss the breathtaking views of the nation’s capital from the venue’s balcony or, for the heights-phobic, safely behind floor-to-ceiling windows, as you share your extraordinary experience visiting Congressional members with your RTO peers.

For more information on this year’s Legislative Conference, click here, or contact us at

APRO’s 2019 Legislative Conference, scheduled for April 9-11 in Washington, D.C., is next week! Below are a few things to help you prepare for the big event.

Congress in Your Pocket App

This is a fantastic resource for all registered attendees that will make your meetings go smoothly and we look forward to hearing your feedback. This app puts Capitol Hill at your fingertips by featuring names, addresses, and emails of key staff, as well as a wealth of campaign information and a short biography. It also features an extensive database packed with information on congressional leaders, their staff, committee activities and the minutiae of the legislative process. You can sort by Congress, Senate, House, Freshmen, and Open Seats. The app will also allow you to coordinate notes based on your calls and meetings with APRO members and Capitol Hill staff. Click here to read more about all its features. Please email to request access if you have not received an email with login information.

Legislative Appointments Email

This week all 2019 Legislative Conference attendees will receive an email that will include the master list of appointments for meetings scheduled on The Hill. A follow-up email will also be sent to all attendees with updates to the master list with team information and links to some of the materials to help you prepare such as state economic impact reports, final legislative conference agenda, leave-behind story cards, and RTO @ a Glance with industry data. 


Tuesday, April 9

Afternoon                Arrivals and check-in at the hotel
4 – 5 p.m.                APRO Board of Directors Meeting
4:30 – 5:30 p.m.     New Advocates Orientation
                                  Hyatt Place, 3rd Floor. Check-in at registration
5 – 7 p.m.                Welcome Reception
                                  Hyatt Place, 3rd Floor
                                  Sponsored by Benefit Marketing Solutions

9 p.m.                      Climb the Hill Pre-party
                                 Citybar Rooftop Bar

Wednesday, April 10

7:45 – 9 a.m.          Breakfast and Orientation Briefing at Hotel
                                  Sponsored by TRIB Group
9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.  Meetings on the Hill
5:30 p.m.                  Shuttles depart for dinner
                                   Sponsored by Progressive Furniture
6:00-9:30 p.m.          Reception and Dinner
                                   Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center
                                   Sponsored by RentDirect Nationwide


Thursday, April 11

8 a.m.                        Additional Meetings on the Hill
Afternoon                 Departures
*Schedule is tentative and subject to change.

For more information on this year’s Legislative Conference, click here, or contact us at

The presentation of the home to Valencia and her family was the 169th by Warrick Dunn Charities’ (WDC) HFTH program.

Aaron’s and Progressive Leasing recently filled the new home of a single mom and her four sons with furniture, electronics, and appliances as a surprise in Augusta, GA. This 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.

Additional partnerships with the City of Augusta’s Homeownership Assistance Program, Peach State Federal Credit Union (FCU), and Mortgage Bankers Association of Georgia helped provide Valencia and her family with a new, fully furnished home.

Aaron’s and Progressive Leasing recently filled the new home of a single mom and her four sons with furniture, electronics, and appliances as a surprise in Augusta, GA.

“Aaron’s is grateful for the opportunity to work alongside Warrick Dunn Charities to provide a deserving Augusta family a safe place to call home,” says John Robinson, CEO of Aaron’s, Inc. “We have a longstanding tradition of giving back to communities across the country and we’re so pleased that these furnishings will be able to help make a difference for this family in their lives for years to come.”

Valencia works as an educator and strives to equip her children with skills that reach far beyond the classroom. She serves as an influential role model for her students in school and for her family at home.

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 16 years.