They may not know him by the name, but the stocky young man is a familiar face among students needing a quick meal at the University of South Carolina’s campus in Columbia.
After working in the fast food industry for 15 years, Malcolm Coleman is always ready with a warm and friendly smile for clients of the local Wendy’s. He has made such an impact on campus that when word went around that he had lost his home and his belongings in a fire, a group of students decided to raise funds to help him out.
On January 14, 2019, an electrical fire ravaged the home that Coleman shared with his mother. This made the house inhabitable and in urgent need of repairs. Unfortunately, due to a lapse in insurance, the cost of repairing the home wasn’t covered, and Coleman himself couldn’t afford it. Since then, mother and son relied on the generosity of family and friends, who would let them stay in their homes for a short time. Coleman also lost his father, another tragedy the family had to endure in an already difficult year.
Still, despite these challenges, the students at the University of South Carolina say that Coleman has remained consistent. Coleman has managed to stay kind and positive despite the many personal obstacles in his life.
Robert Caldaroni, a student at the Darla Moore School of Business, (University of South Carolina’s business school), said, “He’s always smiling and laughing, which is admirable when the tough situation he is in is taken into account.”
Though Coleman has been without a home for a year, Caldaroni had just recently learned about his dismal situation. He immediately set to work, and along with Alexis Braz and other friends, decided to start a Mission: Malcolm fundraising campaign on GoFundMe and Facebook to help Coleman get back on his feet. After visiting Coleman’s house, Braz said, “It’s just a charred block of a building. It broke my heart.”
Caldaroni, Braz, and other friends in Caldaroni’s business fraternity set a campaign goal of $75,000, the cost of repairing the damages to Coleman’s home. The group expressed their decision to help on the fundraising page, which stated, “Malcolm never complains and takes every day as a blessing. He clocks into work every night to continue taking care of his mother and puts a small portion of his check towards maybe one day being able to return home.”
Caldaroni stressed that Coleman is more than just a fast food worker among the students at the University of South Carolina who are regulars at Wendy’s. “Many people on campus know Malcolm because of his big personality and the unique ability to remember the name and order of every student after very few interactions with them,” he said. “This pairing has made Malcolm into somewhat of a local celebrity with students at USC — even if you don’t remember his name, he’ll remember yours.”
Caldaroni added that he was motivated to help after seeing how Coleman often makes the extra effort to make each and every student feel special. “It’s the care that Malcolm takes of University of south Carolina students that makes a ‘4-for-4’ (Wendy’s value meal) feel like a warm, home-cooked meal for even the furthest traveling out-of-state students,” he shared. “For years, Malcolm has gone above and beyond to care for students without expecting anything in return; now we have the opportunity to help out a friend in need.”
Coleman has been more than grateful. He said that his job may be demanding, but he is happy to be noticed and appreciated. And he was truly surprised when he first found out about the fundraising effort. Caldaroni said the veteran fast food worker was “shocked and incredibly grateful.” He added, “Malcolm’s first response was pouring me a chocolate Frosty.”
Overwhelmed by the support from the students at the University of South Carolina, Coleman took to Facebook to express his gratitude. “Working in fast food isn’t easy. It’s grueling. Stressful. Anxiety filled. And a lot of the time you feel like your work ethic is in vain. All of the things that you bring to the table (are) taken for granted. And sometimes you feel completely disregarded as a person. But people like you, Rob…the rest of the students at USC, and my other customers (my peeps) remind me that it’s a bigger picture and to keep being me.”
Caldaroni said, “After our fundraiser really started to take off this week, Malcolm has been in very high spirits and is still very much in a state of shock. To see our community and country come behind him like this has been nothing short of inspirational.”
The fundraising effort has since breached the halfway mark. The outpouring of support is a testament to Coleman’s effect on the students at the University of South Carolina. Coleman said, “I do not take any of these beautiful acts of kindness lightly or for granted.” He is truly thankful and has said that people’s “generosity and kindness has been overwhelmingly beautiful and encouraging.”
See how much the University of South Carolina students value Coleman in the video below: