Known by many as a “Local Legend,” a kind soul, selfless and dependable, Allen Reeves is simply doing what he believes to be the right thing.
The 41-year-old Riverbank High graduate and Oakdale community member, however, has taken something upon himself which few, if any would consider. Allen returns abandoned grocery carts to their homes … on a bicycle. One at a time, seven days a week, if Allen happens by a stray cart he finds it his mission to return it to the store from which it came.
“His eyeballs don’t stop looking for shopping carts as he rides his bike around town, doing his normal routine,” Allen’s best friend of 17 years, Austin Sprague, shared.
A normal routine which includes traveling by bicycle to various businesses around Oakdale including: Jack in the Box or McDonald’s for a little lunch; Oakdale Feed, Les Schwab, Haidlen Ford and Oakdale Bicycle Shop. The local businesses are places where the community member likes to visit, as well as help out with odd jobs if needed.
“The carts all go back. They don’t come home,” Sprague said of the ‘Legends’ cart collecting, noting Cost Less carts as the only ones which serve as a challenge, because of the store location.
“Doesn’t really like to go as far as Cost Less,” Sprague explained of traveling to the North end business towing a grocery cart via bicycle.
The recent loss of Oakdale/Escalon car wash business owner Henry Goedhart has been one of great impact to Allen. Goedhart was not only a great friend to Allen, but also spent Sundays helping him return the carts (such as Cost Less), to their rightful location. It’s a void, which Allen could now use some help with.
“If there’s people in this town that see Allen or know Allen, maybe the next time they see him say thanks and is there any carts I can handle for you right now?” Sprague suggested.
According to Allen’s mom and care provider Kathy Van Ruiten, the cart returns began pretty simply. It was just a visit to a store and returning a stray cart to the cart return … simple.
“All the carts that were not in their rightful place he would put in the cart racks,” mom Kathy said, “and he just expanded from there.”
Over 20 years later, it’s estimated that Allen has returned over 5,000 carts in his travels. A fact which is not only impressive but impactful as the City of Oakdale has not had to follow suit of other cities that employ Cart Return services, as Allen has it handled.
“We don’t have that problem because of Allen,” Sprague stated, regarding carts and other cities. “You don’t understand or know that we have a cart problem because of Allen.”
Recognition for his commitment was acknowledged at the start of the Tuesday, Jan. 19 City Council meeting for his dedication and service to the Oakdale community.
A man of few words, Allen isn’t one to toot his own horn, or carry on about the miles covered, or carts saved. He isn’t interested in special favors or payment; it just simply makes him feel good to do.
“He’s been doing it, seems like ever since he began riding a bike, forever,” said his mom, noting a collection of five bicycles in their garage, all of which are ridden regularly. “He just enjoys doing it.”
As the family and his best friend speak about Allen’s cart adventures, it’s apparent that he not only enjoys doing it, but hearing the stories shared by his supporters. One of Allen’s favorite stops on his daily ride through town is the Oakdale Bicycle Shop, where his family shared he has a healthy tab for tube repair, as well as a bond with the bike shop crew.
“They give him a free soda every day, so he definitely has to stop there,” Sprague said with a big smile.
He typically leaves late morning and is gone until early to mid-afternoon then goes back out after dinner to “see more friends,” Kathy said of her son’s dedication to his routine.
“Last week Allen and I went into Ace Hardware and as we’re in line, someone said, hey Allen have you see an Ace cart someone took off with one,” Sprague shared of his best friend’s fame. “They know he’s the go to. I think he had it (the cart) back in four days.”
“Returning the carts just makes him feel good,” sister Stacy Reeves shared. “There needs to be more Allen’s in the world. He’s got a good heart; he sees the good in everyone.”
As Kathy reflects upon her son’s commitment and the acknowledgement by the community she becomes emotional. Faced with the question of how it makes her feel to have a son who has been so proactive on doing something so genuine and kind Kathy simply states, “He doesn’t expect anything in return, that’s for sure. He does it because he has a good heart, not because he wanted any recognition. He’s just been doing it for years. He loves it and loves what he does.”