When a pair of students at the University of South Carolina learned that a beloved employee at a local Wendy’s was struggling, they took it upon themselves to help him out.
Robert Caldaroni and Alexis Braz say Malcolm Coleman, who works at a Wendy’s near the campus in Columbia, is a “local celebrity,” and friendly as can be.
“Malcolm’s incredible interpersonal skills are paired with the uncanny ability to remember the name of every student who places an order,” reads a GoFundMe the pair launched to help support Coleman. “He strives to make a connection with every single student in a truly unique way.”
Over the last year, however, Coleman has fallen on hard times: on his birthday in January 2019, the home he shared with his mother burned down after an electrical fire broke out.
According to the GoFundMe, the pair managed to escape, but the house sustained “tens of thousands of dollars in damages and is currently uninhabitable.”
Because of an “insurance lapse,” Coleman has been unable to pay the $75,000 needed to make repairs, and in the 13 months since, has been forced to couch-surf with his mother in the living rooms of friends and family members.
As Coleman explained on Facebook, the fire wasn’t the only hardship he’s faced.
“Last year was a[n] immensely traumatic and rough year for my mama and I,” he wrote. “My dad died last summer as well. We are both still grieving and processing his earthly departure.”
The GoFundMe, then, has been arranged to help Coleman return to his home, according to Caldaroni and Braz.
“Despite all of this, Malcolm never complains and takes every day as a blessing,” the page says. “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.”
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The GoFundMe said that the setbacks haven’t affected Coleman’s sunny demeanor, and that he’s still cheerful and friendly.
“I don’t think it’s possible to have a conversation with Malcolm without smiling at some point,” Braz told CNN.
Coleman wrote on Facebook that he is “in complete awe” by the generosity of strangers, who have so far raised more than $28,000 for him, the GoFundMe page shows.
“I do not take any donation lightly because I know a lot of us work extremely hard to make a living,” he wrote. “This month mark[s] my 15th year anniversary working in the fast food industry. It’s beyond humbling all of my hard work, all that I bring to the table, and just being myself is valued and appreciated. I’m still in awe of all the love I stand on.”