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 1,000 pies in just under two years. She takes no salary and pays only rent and utilities from the proceeds – with the remainder of Pie in the Sky’s earnings being directly invested back into the community. 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.
Malea continues to bake pies, but also writes a twice-monthly column for The St. Augustine Record and partners with another non-profit organization to provide free weatherization to low income and elderly families.
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 in her country store, 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.