When Disaster Struck in Texas, These Two Angelenos Rented a Truck and Hit the Road to Help

As Chris Petroff and Regina Carpinelli made their way from L.A. to Austin last week, their mission to deliver essential supplies turned into something bigger than they’d planned

Last Friday, Chris Petroff suggested to Regina Carpinelli that they go on a road trip. The plan: scrape together whatever money they could, rent an SUV, and fill it with bottled water to deliver somewhere in Texas where people needed it.

When the longtime friends prepared to leave Los Angeles on Saturday morning, they did so with just a few hundred dollars, mostly their own money. By the time they reached Austin on Monday night, they had upgraded from an SUV to a moving van overloaded with goods purchased using several thousand dollars in donations. Now, they’ve launched a GoFundMe to help get more supplies to Austin as Texas recovers from a powerful storm that left many without electricity and water.

“We’re just two punk rockers from L.A.,” says Carpinelli on a Zoom call from Austin. It was that punk DIY spirt that pushed them into action after hearing that a friend in the city had no water and seeing the news about Ted Cruz’s trip to Mexico in the midst of the state’s crisis.

Carpinelli and Petroff met as teenagers, more than 20 years ago, on a Go-Go’s message board. At the time, Carpinelli was living in Temecula, Petroff in Corona. “We’ve been inseparable ever since,” says Carpinelli. The two eventually headed to L.A.

Carpinelli, who lives in Sherman Oaks, became an event producer and founded L.A. Comic Con. Los Feliz-based Petroff is a hairstylist with a celebrity clientele. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit last year, both lost work. The difficulties of the past year have been motivational in a sense. Recently, Carpinelli has been working at the Dodger Stadium CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) vaccination site. “It inspired me,” she says of learning about CORE founder Sean Penn’s aid efforts during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

On Friday, Carpinelli and Petroff posted about their planned trip on social media, asking friends if they wanted to pitch in with contributions. At that point they didn’t know exactly where in Texas they would go. “We did this all on the road,” says Petroff on the same Zoom call, shortly before he and Carpinelli headed back to Los Angeles.

The following morning, they rented an SUV and headed to an L.A. Albertson’s to buy water and pet food. At the grocery store, several employees heard about what Carpinelli and Petroff were doing and helped buy more water for the delivery.

Donations, including contributions from Elvira actress Cassandra Peterson and Steven Universe voice actor Michaela Dietz, rolled in as Carpinelli and Petroff were on the road. By the time they hit Phoenix, they had raised several thousand dollars. They were able to get a good deal on a moving van through Penske that they could continue filling with items. “I’ve never driven anything that big,” says Carpinelli.

Meanwhile, via friends, they were able to connect with Austin Mutual Aid, as well as the Millennium Youth Entertainment Complex, which had been turned into an emergency supply distribution center, and Austin’s Mayor Pro Tem Natasha Harper-Madison, to strategize distribution of the goods.

Carpinelli and Petroff spent the next two days stopping at stores in Arizona and New Mexico, driving very slowly as their haul swelled. At a Walmart in Glendale, Arizona, staffers helped them load pallets of water into the truck. Goldhill Outpost in New Mexico hooked them up with 75 blankets for $5 each.

Petroff says that, everywhere they went, when people heard what they were doing, the response was, “What can we do?”

As they drove further into Texas, they started to see the impact of the storm. The weather had improved, but, about two hours outside of Austin, they stopped for gas and noticed that the water wasn’t yet safe for hand-washing. “The power had just barely come on,” says Petroff.

When they reached Austin and delivered the supplies, Harper-Madison, made them Honorary Austinites.

Chris with part of their haul

“I’m just so blown away by what Chris and Regina did for Austin,” Harper-Madison says by phone. “It was such a really cool, very Austin thing to have happen, a couple of folks that made a cross-country trek to bring us stuff. It’s weird and beautiful and, in so many ways, that’s exactly the way to describe Austin.”

Although Austin is recovering, locals are still in need of items like food, water, and diapers, as well as period and bladder control products. Harper-Madison suggests that people interested in helping keep their eye on Austin groups that have been doing work on the ground.

“I just want to make sure that we’re all being mindful about one another’s humanity, the fact that we are all together looking at a future where we’re going to have more unprecedented challenges,” says Harper-Madison. “We all need to just be ready to help each other when the help is needed.”

In all, Carpinelli and Petroff raised close to $6,000 and were able to acquire 16,000 bottles of water, plus 900 pounds of pet food, 150 blankets, 800 packages of food items, plus baby wipes and sanitary wipes.

But, they aren’t quite done yet. Via their GoFundMe, Carpinelli and Petroff are still raising funds and are looking to procure supplies to fix pipes damaged as a result of the storm.

Says Carpinelli, “We want people to know that every dollar helps.”

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