Wednesday, January 22, 2014

RAK Day 16: We're Baaaaaack

I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday -- I know we did! A quick recap of our post-holiday whereabouts:

- We spent a few more days in New Port Richey with my (Meaghan's) family. Our time there was mainly spent laying low and playing a whole lot of cards, plus a RAK with our friends. We ended our visit by going out to an early birthday dinner for me at the always wonderful Bonefish Grill!

RAK #43: We love Starbucksing so much that we gave a gift card to our friends Leigha and Alana and told them to find a worthy individual to whom they could RAK the card. Alana told us that they gifted the card to a young man working at the photo counter at Walgreens. She explained that the photo counter was packed full of impatient customers and that the boy working there was alone and also had a bit of a stutter, which made him speak a bit slower and caused the customers waiting for their photos to be a bit nastier than usual. Alana said that despite the hasty people he was serving, he kept his cool and politely helped everyone. When it was their turn to collect their photos, they handed him the gift card along with their payment, to which he showed a shocked expression said something along the lines of "Really?! Wow. Thank you so much!" We think that we gave the responsibility of Starbucksing to some great judges of character.

- Then, we headed South to Miami to spend the week with my best-friend-since-the-third-grade Gabby. Gabby is attending University of Miami Med School, so she was quite busy with classes and studying. She still managed to take us to a laser light show to the tunes of Bob Marley, which was exactly what it sounds like, showed us what South Beach was all about and gave us a great list of "things to do" in the area.
One of those To-dos was to visit this crazy-awesome graffiti art district.
We loved this boom box building.
- A group of our Michigan friends met us in Miami and we all put on our party pants and boarded HOLY SHIP!!!, which is an electronic music festival....on a cruise ship. It was an extremely fun time; especially with theme nights such as "Pirates" and "Disco," but after three days of non-stop dancing, we were pretty exhausted.

- We drove our tired selves down to Key Largo to stay for a few days with our friend Alex, "T", at his family's beach home. It was a fantastic few days of sunshine, snorkeling, relaxing on the beach and kayaking. We also visited the everglades and hung out with some reptiles after an airboat ride.
Just a lil' finger chomp.
The motto of the back seat was "Long hair, don't care!"
A slightly larger gator.

RAK #44: Prior to visiting Miami, I browsed the web for somewhere in need of RAKing. After a bit of searching, I came across Urban Promise's in-kind donation wish list. After reading about their mission and programs, Dan and I decided that this was a perfect place for us to RAK. Even better was that my generous mother had $40 in Kohl's cash saved up, so after a shopping trip for some toys and books, our grand total of spending was only $8.00!
Hannah and Scott with the toys and books.
Right before we dropped some of our friends, Hannah and Scott, off at the airport in Miami, we took them with us to the Urban Promise building to deliver our goodies. When we arrived at the building, we were greeted by Mark, the Co-Executive Director of Administration and Development. After introducing ourselves and explaining our journey, Mark offered to give us a tour of the building and tell us a bit more about Urban Promise.

They have two locations in the Miami area that service up to 200 students at a time, most of whom are middle school aged and younger. Founded by a State Attorney and Clinical Psychologist who both saw first hand the end result of kids without direction; one prosecuting them and the other working with them once they were incarcerated. They decided to stop the cycle by working with young people in at risk areas.

High-school students are put through an interview process to join the staff as mentors to the younger students in order to practice real life skills.  Urban Promise offers after school activities and summer programs.  They also reach out to psychology students to get some free counseling for their charges.  All of these offerings convinced us that Urban Promise is exactly the proactive, and positive program we wanted to help in our small way.  On their website they had asked for in-kind donations of books, games, basically anything to keep kids busy, and that's exactly what we dropped off.

RAK #45: As I said, we really really love starbucksing. So, we decided to share the joy and provide Scott and Hannah with a giftcard to give someone in the airport!

Upon wrapping up our second, shorter stint in New Port Richey, we packed our bags and started our trek north. Our first stop was St. Augustine, where we had the opportunity to visit the Castillo De San Marcos National Monument and take a stroll through the cobblestone streets of downtown. We had already taken care of our RAK for the St. Augustine area prior to our visit, and we'll bring you up to speed in our next post.

After our day-trip to St. Augustine, we continued north to Atlanta, Georgia where Dan's friend Yacin lives. Yacin was kind enough to let us stay at his home for two nights and even took us to  truck stop karaoke night. If you were wondering, Dan and I performed a wonderful rendition of "Kiss from a Rose"... but I also kind of feel like that was a given.

The next day was Martin Luther King Jr. day, which we were fortunate enough to spend at the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site. Yacin had work to get done and sent us over to the house where Dr. King Jr. grew up. We walked up to the festivities as King's daughter, Bernice King commented on the state of civil rights in the nation today.  She called for greater action at a community level to create opportunities for those who are still marginalized.  It was very moving to walk through the exhibits and see how the civil rights activists of the 60's stood up to the reality that was the segregated South.  It took pain, perseverance and a whole lot of courage to change the legislature of the times, and I must agree that we're not done yet.
Outside of MLK Jr's childhood home.
RAK #46: In honor of MLK Jr. Day, we made a $100 donation to Medshare International, a nonprofit organization "dedicated to improving the environment and healthcare through the efficient recovery and redistribution of surplus medical supplies and equipment to under served healthcare facilities in developing countries". We felt that this organization was one that Dr. King would have been proud of, so our donation just made sense.

RAK #47: We left Yacin early on Tuesday with great aspirations of visiting Tennessee's Great Smoky Mountains and getting into some caves.  A 5 hour drive ended in mild disappointment as the caves we'd selected were closed for the season.  If only I'd listened to Dan and gone to the Mammoth Caves in Kentucky (Dan wrote this)!  There was no time to dwell however, as there was another RAK waiting for us in North Carolina.  I had perused the Craigslist for Asheville, NC and came across a woman raising her three grandchildren who badly needed firewood to weather this atypically cold winter.  We arranged for a truckload of firewood to be delivered and had a nice chat with the very thankful grandmother, who was able to recommend a delicious BBQ restaurant.
The firewood!
Today we head to Washington D.C. where we have more nice things for strangers planned.  If you would like to help us do more nice things for strangers, you have one more day before we close down the GoFundMe page, so get on it!

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