The Rescuer of Shopping Carts
Photographs and story by Greg Stidham –
The small group huddled, shrouded in fog near a shrub by a cement wall behind a local supermarket. They looked lonely, cold, destitute on the chilly winter morning of Jan. 12.
All of them came from excellent bloodlines: Luckys, Target, Longs … not a bad one in the bunch – except of course, for the loner, abandoned from Pak’n Save when it moved out of town last summer.
As 74 year old Antioch resident Wilbur Edwards, owner of Edwards Cart Protection Service, pulled up in his GMC pickup, the group stood perfectly still. One by one, Wilbur rolled the shopping carts onto his trailer and climbed back into the cab of his truck, as he headed out to find more.
Traffic was light as Wilbur traveled through the maze of neighborhoods. First to Redwood Drive, then to Pine Street, a right on Ash Street, a zigzag over to Pecan Street – and then back to Redwood Drive. The search was exhaustive and thorough.
The watchful eyes of Mary with the Christ child gazed up from a statue on Wilbur’s dashboard, underneath a fuzzy gorilla, swaying from his rearview mirror, as the rescuer of homeless carts proceeded on his route, Finally, through the fog, another wayward cart was found carelessly tossed against a dumpster in a back alley.
“Well, I’ve got one cart,” Wilbur said as he swerved to the side of the road and pushed the emergency brake with an authoritative thud. “It was well worth it”
In 1988, Wilbur began his business of searching back alleys, side streets, and apartment complexes to help make up for a financial deficit that his meager pension left him with every month. What started with only two or three supermarkets as “clients” has turned into a booming business with 30 supermarkets and a monthly cart-collection count of more than 6000. Occasionally stores would cancel service to try and save money, but when carts cost several hundred dollars each, the cost cutting measure is often short lived.
“Target cancelled service once,” Wilbur said as he secured two Food 4 Less carts together on the trailer, “but after six months, they found the money”