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With Hurricane Matthew bearing down on their home in Hollywood, Florida, Elizabeth and Chris Rodriguez packed their belongings and their 12-year-old daughter Kurisma in a car and fled west.

Hurricane Matthew hits Titusville, Florida. Photo by Bruce Weaver/AFP/Getty Images.

24 hours later, they were sitting at a neatly appointed breakfast table, enjoying orange juice, coffee, and a basket of croissants.


"We started looking for a place to go, and we found Bob and Juan," Elizabeth said.

The Rodriguez family currently occupies two bedrooms in the home of Juan Maldonado and Bob Leibensperger, a married couple in Kissimmee, who registered for an Airbnb's Disaster Response Tool, which allows hosts to offer their rooms, free of charge, to people displaced by natural or manmade disasters.

With no hotels available, the tool was a godsend for the East Coast family, who raced to send a request when they saw Maldonado and Leibensperger's posting, fearing they would be late.

"It was relief, being that we had no options other than a shelter. It eased our minds because we knew were going central, away from the coasts," Elizabeth said.

Airbnb launched the tool in 2013, inspired by the generosity of its hosts — many of whom tried, unsuccessfully, to open their homes through the room-sharing service during Superstorm Sandy.

"Our system wasn’t set up to support free emergency housing, so we worked to make the necessary changes to help our community support people in need," company founder Nathan Blecharczyk said in a press release.

Tampa Airbnb host Danielle Ferrari, who took in a couple from South Florida, said she didn't really think about "why" before signing up to assist.

Danielle Ferrari's home in Tampa, Florida. Photo by Danielle Ferrari.

"I'm used to opening my doors to strangers, why not a stranger in need," she wrote. "Aren't they the best guest you could have? And the most rewarding."

In June, Maldonado and Leibensperger hosted two sets of families who traveled to Orlando to attend funerals for the victims of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub.

"It was uplifting being able to be there with them and give them a few words of support and give them kind of a safe haven," Maldonado said.

That experience, he explained, influenced the couple's decision to register for the program.

With the storm traveling north, the Rodriguezes hope to be able to head home soon.

The Rodriguez family with Maldonado and Leibensperger at breakfast. Photo by Juan Maldonado.

"We're all grateful and kind of celebrating now that things didn't get as bad as TV made it to look," Maldonado said.

The Rodriguez family's current landlord, also an Airbnb host, plans to return today to assess the damage. In the meantime, they're enjoying their temporary accommodations and spending time with Maldonado and Leibensperger's two chihuahuas.

Maldonado said that, for him, the storm is an opportunity to be "grateful for the things you have."

"The fact that you get to meet great people that you would never have met if it wasn't for the terrible circumstances is the good side of any tragedy, I guess."

If you're stranded by the storm and need shelter, visit Airbnb's Disaster Response Tool here.

Pop Culture

She bought the perfect wedding dress that went viral on TikTok. It was only $3.75

Lynch is part of a growing line of newlyweds going against the regular wedding tradition of spending loads of money.

Making a priceless memory

Upon first glance, one might think that Jillian Lynch wore a traditional (read: expensive) dress to her wedding. After all, it did look glamorous on her. But this 32-year-old bride has a secret superpower: thrifting.

Lynch posted her bargain hunt on TikTok, sharing that she had been perusing thrift shops in Ohio for four days in a row, with the actual ceremony being only a month away. Lynch then displays an elegant ivory-colored Camila Coelho dress. Fitting perfectly, still brand new and with the tags on it, no less.

You can find that exact same dress on Revolve for $220. Lynch bought it for only $3.75.
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This article originally appeared on 08.21.18


Addie Rodriguez was supposed to take the field with her dad during a high school football game, where he, along with other dads, would lift her onto his shoulders for a routine. But Addie's dad was halfway across the country, unable to make the event.

Her father is Abel Rodriguez, a veteran airman who, after tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, was training at Travis Air Force Base in California, 1,700 miles from his family in San Antonio at the time.

"Mom missed the memo it was parent day, and the reason her mom missed the memo was her dad left Wednesday," said Alexis Perry-Rodriguez, Addie's mom. She continued, "It was really heartbreaking to see your daughter standing out there being the only one without their father, knowing why he's away. It's not just an absentee parent. He's serving our country."

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Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.