2010-06-25 / Community

Pair on a mission to help those affected by oil spill

Local couple drove to the Gulf Coast with a car full of supplies
By Angela Randazzo Special to the Acorn

GOODS TO GIVE—Moorpark residents Michael Singer, right, and his fiance Angela Southerland sort through a pallet of supplies they have collected to take down to the Gulf Coast to help with rescue efforts in response to the BP oil spill. The couple recently spent about a week in Louisiana, distributing supplies and making contact with relief agencies. WENDY PIERRO/Acorn Newspapers GOODS TO GIVE—Moorpark residents Michael Singer, right, and his fiance Angela Southerland sort through a pallet of supplies they have collected to take down to the Gulf Coast to help with rescue efforts in response to the BP oil spill. The couple recently spent about a week in Louisiana, distributing supplies and making contact with relief agencies. WENDY PIERRO/Acorn Newspapers Mike Singer was at home watching the news a couple of months ago when he heard about the Gulf Coast oil spill. It left him glued to his television.

A week into the disaster, Singer could no longer sit idly by.

“I just couldn’t stay on my couch anymore and watch those poor states take a hit like that. I had to do something,” said the 28-year-old Moorpark resident. “Everyone wants BP to pay for it or the president to do something or someone else but we’re a country of free citizens that can do anything we want to. I had to help.”

So did Singer’s girlfriend, Angela Southerland. A former teller at Citibank in Camarillo, she passed out fliers to customers. Soon, donations of goods to help those affected by the spill began coming in.

On June 2, Singer and Southerland loaded up Singer’s Jeep Commander with shovels, towels, dish soap and other donated items and headed to the Louisiana coastline.

Singer used his own money to buy oil-cleanup supplies, latex gloves and respirators for the workers. He hasn’t yet tallied up his expenditures.

“It’s cost a pretty penny, but that’s not my concern,” he said. “In every war someone in my family has fought. I’m not a fighter but I want to serve my country as well.”

Singer is self-employed and owns a business in Moorpark called Apollo Tactical. He’s currently waiting for a patent for a firearm safety device that law enforcement agencies could use. He also is chief technical officer of Universe Broadcasting, a company that sends people’s messages into outer space at the speed of light with the assurance that the message will travel forever.

When Singer and Southerland arrived in New Orleans, they started calling around to find out where to take the supplies.

“It took us four days to even find anyone who would take our donations. BP and the Audubon Society and the Red Cross wouldn’t even answer our calls,” Singer said. “We went on Facebook to find someone who could get us in touch with the Jefferson Parish mayor’s office.”

Ultimately, the Plaquemines Parish Health Department took delivery of the supplies.

“They had one metal pod half the size of a railroad car,” said Southerland, 27, who lives in Moorpark. “They had some supplies but we filled the rest of it.”

Soon after that, Tim Kerner, mayor of the town of Jean Lafitte, invited Singer and Southerland on a boat ride to Grand Isle, where local officials were scheduled to hold a press conference.

“When I was traveling with the mayor’s convoy, I overheard engineers talking on cellphones,” Singer said. “They were talking passionately, almost crying, trying to get the booms to protect the marshland, but they couldn’t get federal approval for the $63- million cost.”

Singer, who has a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from California Lutheran University, thinks the politics involved is ridiculous; he just wants people to get out there and clean up the oil.

While Singer and Southerland were in Louisiana, it was important for them to learn about the spill’s impact on the residents— directly from those closest to the disaster.

“We met so many incredible people and organizations,” Southerland said. “They were able to share stories about the local fishermen and local waitresses. What’s really going on, not just BP’s point of view.”

The couple from Moorpark have set up a Facebook page, www.savethegulfcrew.com, as an informational resource.

From its modest beginning, the site now has 27,000 followers.

The two plan to return to Louisiana in the next few days to oversee the arrival of new supplies and to try to secure a charter boat to deliver the goods where they’re needed most.

“I hope to inspire other people to do something,” Singer said. “I don’t see why a private citizen just can’t get up off the couch and go do it.”

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