Mary Joy and Jerre Stead, active in St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Highlands Ranch, Colorado, recently committed $1 million to the fight against malaria with the hope that the gift will keep on giving.

They have pledged $500,000 to the Rocky Mountain Annual Conference and the same amount to the Iowa Annual Conference. Their gift will be used by Imagine No Malaria, a United Methodist initiative to raise $75 million to fight malaria in Africa.

“Jerre and Mary Joy Stead are joyful Christians who want to make a difference in the world,” said Bishop Elaine Stanovsky with the Rocky Mountain Conference. “They share with others because they are thankful for the blessings of their lives. Knowing first- hand the ravages of malaria in Africa, they also know that this campaign will protect children who may grow up to be leaders in their communities. And they hope that their gift will encourage others to give.”

Dr. Michael Dent, co-chair of the Rocky Mountain Conference steering team for Imagine No Malaria, expressed his gratitude for the gift. “The Steads’ extraordinary generosity, along with that of others, will save the lives of many children on the continent of Africa,” he said. “Thanks be to God for leaders who lead by example, inspiring others to participate generously.”

With this generous gift, the Rocky Mountain Conference has reached its Imagine No Malaria goal of $1.2 million. “But God isn’t finished with us yet,” said Stanovsky. “How many more lives can we save?”

Jerre Stead grew up in Iowa and said he learned from a young age to give to the church. As a paperboy at age 9, he donated about a third of his earnings to the church. He met Mary Joy at the University of Iowa, and they tithed even as college students living in a 10 x 40 trailer.

“We tithed because we grew up that way,” Jerre Stead said. “So we always had a goal that if we were blessed with enough to give much more than that, we would do it.”

He later became the CEO of seven companies over his career, including a successful 13-year tenure at IHS, Inc., a Colorado information and analytics firm. He was named Business Person of the Year by the Denver Post for 2013, recognizing not only his time at IHS, which he took public in 2005, but also as the leader of state recovery from flooding that devastated parts of 17 counties last September.

He and Mary Joy had been looking for ways to invest in global health after conversations with friends such as Microsoft founder Bill Gates. “We’ve had friends in Africa, India, and other places that have suffered from malaria and still are,” Stead said. “It’s been something high on our list for a long time.”

Then, four years ago, they took one of their granddaughters to Africa and spent time in seven countries. That experience stuck with them, particularly seeing children there. “She and Mary Joy and I talked a lot about that,” Jerre said. “It seemed like such an important place to give.”

“I’m hopeful that our gifting and investment will make a difference for other people to also participate,” he added. “It doesn’t really matter if it’s a dollar or a thousand dollars or a hundred thousand. It’s just a great effort that needs to happen.”

For almost 200 years, United Methodists have operated hospitals and clinics throughout Africa. These facilities are a vital and trusted part of the health-care delivery system on the continent. The Imagine No Malaria approach focuses on four key areas: prevention, education, communication and treatment.

Just a few years ago, statistics showed a child died every 30 seconds of malaria. The United Methodist Church has worked with global partners such as the United Nations Foundation, The Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and others, and the death rate has dropped to one every 60 seconds.

So far, The United Methodist Church as a whole has raised more than $61 million in pledges and gifts to fight the disease. The denomination’s goal is to raise at least $75 million for the effort by 2015.

“Most gifts are in the $10-$20 range,” said Sheri Altland, campaign director for Imagine No Malaria. “A gift of $1 million can inspire others. It creates its own buzz and its own awareness. It keeps the momentum going.”

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