Grocery cart races raises money for local shelter

750

AURORA | Dead sprints down supermarket aisles aren’t common. “Heats” of shoppers unleashed in eight-minute waves aren’t either. Armloads of 2-liter bottles of olive oil stacked between sacks of raisins and cases of tuna fish are strange — but not here.

From behind her sheet of paper, Marsha Berzins could see there was something missing.

“Get peanut butter — the big jar,” she told her daughter Michelle, who was nearly out of breath from running down the last few aisles. Michelle grabbed three.

Together, Berzins and her daughters Michelle and Victoria, and fellow city councilwoman Debi Hunter Holen made up the “Wild Wacky Women of Ward 3” team, one of 37 competing in a charity competition Wednesday night at an Aurora Safeway. More than 150 competitors lined up for the annual Grocery Cart Races at Safeway to benefit Comitis Crisis Center. The event raised more than $10,000 for food for the shelter and was the third year for the event.

“We’ve never cooked more meals at Comitis than we will this year,” said shelter spokesman James Gillespie. “Generally, we do 14,000 to 16,000 meals a year. This year we’ll do 18,000 to 21,000 — minimum.”

Each team raised money to participate in the event and tried to match half of their total with items selected from the store. The other half is spent purchasing perishable items for the shelter. The frenzied shopping spree among the 37 teams attracted onlookers as carts decked out as pirate ships and stagecoaches jockeyed for position near food items Comitis staff members listed as needs for the shelter.

“We work hard everyday to make our store perfect for our customers, it’s fun for one night to tear it all apart,” said Safeway store Manager Tory Reding.

Executive director for the Havana Business Improvement District Gayle Jetchick said the event was a way to help a local organization during a typically slow donation period for charities.

“It came to me one night at 3 a.m. a few years ago,” Jetchick said. “We always used to do a food donation collection, but this is just so much more fun.”

Reding said he doubled his usual nighttime staff to accommodate the charitable chaos of that evening.

In checkstand No. 3, Berzins and her teammates eagerly awaited the result of their 8-minute spree to see how close they could come to their $322.50 budget without going over.

The last minute addition of a Reese’s Peanut Buttercup put the “Wild Wacky Women of Ward 3” 52 cents from their goal.

“We’re just happy to be here,” Hunter-Holen said.