Wright Litter Patrol takes bite out of roadside trash
By Mark Wineka
GOLD HILL - Jane Wright says she isn't an environmentalist.
"I'm just a person who likes to see God's earth taken care of," the retired grandmother says.
At least once a week, Wright walks out to a Yamaha golf cart, gathers whatever grandchildren are around, and in their neon green T-shirts, they set off up and down the roads near Wright's home on Shortcut Road.
The T-shirts, printed at Granite Knitwear and the idea of 10-year-old grandaughter Danielle, say "Wright Litter Patrol" on the front and "Think - Don't Be a Litter Bug" on the back.
"It's very simple," Danielle's twin brother, Ben, says about the problem with roadside litter. "People don't think."
The golf cart is Jane's command vehicle. It holds a bucket up front for the paper trash her grandchildren pick up and deposit.
A garbage can in back carries discarded aluminum cans. And a shelf at the rear of the cart holds glass bottles and bigger pieces of metal they find.
Jane, who the kids call "Mee-maw," packs snacks, drinks, bug spray, wipes and gloves.
The grandkids use grabbers to pick up all the trash they find.
Sometimes it's just Danielle and Ben on patrol. Other times 16-year-old Chandler Wright and/or 25-year-old Aaron Wright join in, depending on what other commitments they might have.
The grandchildren speak their own litter language as they keep their eyes directed to the right side of the road.
When they say, "Cha-ching!" it means they have spotted either a can, bottle or piece of metal that can be recycled for cash later.
When a shout of "Uh-oh" goes out, the kids have spotted a regular piece of paper trash that goes into the front bucket.
The Wright Litter Patrol regularly sweeps up and down Shortcut, Gold Hill, Mattons Church, Beatty Ford and St. Stephens Church roads.
Jane Wright says her patrol stays out about three hours at a time. Ben and Danielle, fifth-graders at Mount Pleasant Elementary, enjoy the regular searches for litter because every six weeks, when they carry cans and bottles to the recycling center, it translates into cash.
Jane Wright's litter obsession started innocently enough.
A retired employee of the tax collection office in Cabarrus County, Jane and her husband, Danny, were taking short walks for exercise last fall, and it seemed they were literally tripping over trash along their quiet country road.
Wright couldn't just leave the litter. She started taking plastic trash bags with her, and soon she had a golf cart to cover more ground.
The grandchildren wanted to go with her.
When the Wright Litter Patrol started, there was a lot more trash. They found at least five roadside dumps and once ended up taking 60 tires to be recycled.
Their biggest finds have included a discarded cigarette package with $60 in cash slipped down the side. And someone also had tossed away a $50 gift card.
They have picked up light bulbs, cigarette lighters, food wrappers, beer bottles - you name it.
"People who just don't care," Jane says with a head shake.
Danielle says it makes her "very irritated."
There are no government grants connected to the Wright Litter Patrol. There are no roadside signs saying the family has adopted the highways.
It's just the family vs. litter, and to see the roads in this corner of the world near the Rowan, Cabarrus and Stanly county lines, the family appears to be winning.
Danielle and Ben Wright say they find it hard to travel anywhere now without looking for litter along the road.
You know what they're saying to themselves.
Contact Mark Wineka at 704-797-4263, or firstname.lastname@example.org.