Students raise money for Wendy's employee who lost his home in a fire

Malcolm Coleman is a well-known friendly face at the Wendy's on the University of South Carolina campus.

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/ Source: TODAY
By Michelle Gant

A fast-food worker whose home was severely damaged by a fire made such an impact on his customers that they’re now raising money to help repair the house.

Malcolm Coleman has worked in the food industry for over 15 years and he's currently an employee at the Wendy’s on the University of South Carolina's campus in Columbia.

On Jan. 14, 2019, an electrical fire destroyed nearly his entire home, making it uninhabitable for him and his mother. Due to a lapse in insurance, the damage isn’t covered and, since the repairs are extremely expensive, the two have been couch surfing with friends and family ever since. Malcolm also lost his father last year.

Despite being faced with so many obstacles in his personal life, the students Coleman serves say he's consistently kind and positive.

“He's always smiling and laughing, which is admirable when the tough situation he is in is taken into account,” Robert Caldaroni, a student at the Darla Moore School of Business (the university's business school), told TODAY Food.

Though Coleman lost his house last year, Caldaroni only learned about the dire situation last month. Along with other students in his business fraternity, Caldaroni decided to start a GoFundMe with a goal of $75,000.

“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,” reads the fundraiser page.

Caldaroni said he Coleman isn't just a fast-food employee to many of the students who frequent the 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," Caldaroni 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."

The way Coleman goes above and beyond to make each and every student feel special is what Caldaroni said gave him the idea to help out in any way he could.

"It’s the care that Malcolm takes of USC 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," the business school student said.

“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,” Caldaroni wrote on Facebook.

Coleman said his job can be difficult, but he’s grateful to know that people appreciate him and that his efforts to make an impact on students haven’t gone unnoticed.

“Working in fast food isn't easy. It's grueling. Stressful. Anxiety filled," the Wendy's employee wrote on Facebook. "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."

When Coleman first found out about the fundraiser, Caldaroni said the veteran fast-food worker was “shocked and incredibly grateful.”

“Malcolm's first response was pouring me a chocolate Frosty,” he told TODAY.

“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," Caldaroni said. "To see our community and country come behind him like this has been nothing short of inspirational."

As of Friday, the fundraiser had made over $32,000, nearly halfway to its goal.

Coleman said he truly appreciates all the support and that people’s “generosity and kindness has been overwhelmingly beautiful and encouraging.”