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 a need she never imagined existed: 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 people. 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, running a food bank and taking food to homebound low-income senior citizens 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.