Malea Guiriba has become a folk hero – an example of what one person can do to change the world: one house, one person, and one day at a time.
She’s had careers in real estate and journalism, but it is her activism that has touched hearts and changed lives. Malea has been a passionate worker in the civil rights and domestic violence movements, always embracing the disenfranchised and poor.
While working with the domestic violence shelter in St. Augustine, she took a post as Rural Services Coordinator in the small farming town of Hastings. She built her program from scratch by embedding herself in a community, which was long ago divided by race, class, and economics.
Malea was inspired by two middle aged African-American men who had essentially been enslaved as farm workers for most of their life. Their experiences awakened her to what she now believes is her life’s calling: helping the historically underprivileged Hastings farm workers. She and others were shocked that one of Florida’s richest counties could be the site of such inhumane treatment.
It became her mission to provide basic needs to families including healthcare, as well as safe and affordable housing. The program became a focal point of the community, but suddenly was without the grant funding that kept it going. Malea was suddenly unemployed, yet determined to continue the work she had begun.
Her answer was to open Pie in the Sky, a pie shop symbolizing what someone called her “pie in the sky” ideas about how to help Hastings. Two months after she cleaned out her office, she served her first pie – a real achievement, considering she’d never baked a pie in her life. She’s since sold more than thousands of pies in just under two years. She’s helped by delivering furniture to a family that lost its home to fire, buying dentures for a man to build his confidence while he focused on finding a new job, riding in the potato fields to take a man to his doctor’s appointment, building wheelchair ramps, and much more.
The work Malea has accomplished, continues to inspire others and to grant the gift of giving to the volunteer workforce. Her mantra is, “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something.” Whether she is selling pies, delivering food as a mobile pantry, or wielding a power saw to help build a ramp, Malea sets the example for those around her and spreads her goodwill, her can do attitude, and passion for helping wherever she goes.
Ellen Walden has been in social services for most of her adult life. She has worked for the county and the state and "retired" into the Director position at Home Again, St. Johns, a local NGO.
Ellen and Malea worked together for nearly ten years in Hastings, providing for the needs of the impoverished community and advocating on behalf the farmworkers who continue to live in abject poverty and slave-like conditions.
Ellen is also active in many non-profits in St. Augustine, serving a wide array of folks in need and never seems to take a breath when it comes to helping others.
Always going above and beyond, Ellen is a caring and empathetic, roll up her sleeves, get-involved at every level kind of gal.
St. Johns County is lucky to have her and the world is a better place because of her.