By Barbara Dunlap-Berg
NOLENSVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) – A 13-year-old with a heart for others is using M&Ms to fight malaria – and winning.
Steven Errico, a seventh-grader at Sunset Middle School south of Nashville, Tenn., might not know the delicious chocolate candies made their debut during World War II. He does know every quarter he collects from vending-machine M&M sales will help Imagine No Malaria.
Following the lead of his 16-year-old brother, Steven and his mom brought two vending machines to the United Methodist Communications building in Nashville last autumn and posted a sign introducing Steven and explaining his mission.
“This is a business called ‘Steven’s Treats,’” the sign reads. “It’s a candy-machine business to help charities and to save for college. … Proceeds from this machine will go to Imagine No Malaria. Through your purchase, you are helping me learn math, business, investing, mechanics, salesmanship, computers and charity. Thank you for helping me help others.”
Steven, a budding video editor whose favorite subjects are Spanish and English, said his brother, Daniel, set a positive example. “He started (his vending business) when he was 9 and has learned a lot,” Steven said.
Sue Errico was homeschooling Daniel when the mother and son launched the business. “I was looking for something that was reality-based, not just looking through a workbook,” she explained.
Why give to charity?
“We have so much,” she said. “When you see the overabundance of what we have and know some people can’t afford clean water or a $10 insecticide-treated bed net, it’s important to realize helping others is our No. 1 priority.”
‘It’s the right thing to do’
What’s the biggest lesson for Steven so far?
“Good locations are hard to find,” he replied quickly. Getting businesses to buy into the idea can be tough, he acknowledged.
But his customers at United Methodist Communications are sold on the concept. “I buy the M&Ms because the money goes to Imagine No Malaria,” said administrative assistant Carol Terry. “I also want to ‘reward’ this young man for doing such a cool thing.”
“Any way we can support a young person trying to make a positive impact in this world I will try to help,” commented Steven Adair, who helps coordinate Rethink Church community events.
Customer service representative Audrey Dowlen buys Steven’s Treats, “knowing it’s a small price to pay to help the big fight against malaria.”
In their first three months at United Methodist Communications, the two vending machines grossed $33. That’s 132 handfuls of the tasty treats. The net profit for Imagine No Malaria, after subtracting the cost of giant bags of M&Ms to fill the machines, was $13. That’s a bed net – and then some!
Just a few short years ago, statistics showed a child died every 30 seconds of malaria. Today, because of the dedicated and generous support of people like Steven, malaria’s impact has been cut in half. According to the World Health Organization, this disease now claims a life every 60 seconds.
That is great news to young Steven, who dreams of going into the film business. If this initial foray into entrepreneurship is any indication, he’ll probably use his talents to serve others.
“It’s the right thing to do,” he said. Giving to Imagine No Malaria and other charities helps us to understand that what we have isn’t ours. It belongs to God.”
*Dunlap-Berg is internal content editor at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.