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You always feel welcome in Vestavia, from Liberty Park to Cahaba Heights to original Vestavia Hills because of its warm and caring people. Occasionally, someone very special with an open heart and giving spirit stands out because they are always giving of themselves using their time and resources to help others. Some of them may not have enough of either, but they still find a way. The rest of us wish we could be that way too, but we’re usually so caught up in our own lives that we don’t think about it until we hear a story that warms the heart and makes us want to strive to be like them. Here is such a story and this is how the idea for Vestavia’s Finest was born...

Malena Trussell is the owner of Vestavia’s new beauty salon, Studio Elle and she is my personal hairdresser. She used to work for another company in Vestavia, but when they went out of business, Malena decided to open her own salon in July 2011. One day in December 2012 while I was in her chair, I casually asked what her children were getting for Christmas. She said that instead of getting presents for themselves this year, they wanted to take the money she was going to spend on them and use it to make sure children less fortunate had a Christmas. She was so proud of them! You hear of random acts of kindness, but Malena and her children truly are the personification of kindness toward others. I asked her to please tell me her background and how her children came to be such givers. This is their story...

Malena said she grew up poor in Colombia, South America but never felt poor because she had the love of her parents, grandparents and siblings. She recalled when she was a young girl that her grandmother on one rare occasion gave her a little money so that she could buy a toy. Malena was so excited, but when she arrived at the store, there was an old lady near the door who was hungry and had no shoes. Instead of buying a toy for herself, she gave her money to the lady so that she could buy something to eat. Malena never forgot that feeling.

She later moved to the United States, married and now has three beautiful children. Malena still was not rich in money, but she never stopped doing for those who were less fortunate. Her children have learned from her. For example, in the summer of 2010 she took them back home to Colombia. On the plane, they each had a small carry-on bag with all the clothes they would wear on their trip. However, they checked eight large bags full of toys, clothes and other gifts she had been collecting to give to children whom she knew had so little.

She had no way of knowing that a year later her job would be gone and she would start her own business. It was exciting, but it was also very hard. In December 2011, she had to tell her children there wasn’t enough money for Christmas. She was now a single mother and every penny she made went back into the salon just to keep the doors open. They told her it was alright and not to worry, they were just glad they were all together.

That is when something remarkable happened! Twelve of her Vestavia clients who all go to Shades Mountain Baptist Church came to her with money to buy presents for her children. When the kids woke up Christmas morning and found presents, they said, “but we thought you had no money.” She told them that angels brought the presents. She still calls them her twelve angels! So, this is a story within a story!

And that brings us back to December 2012 when I asked what her kids were getting for Christmas. They wanted the money that would have been spent on them to go to children in Colombia so those less fortunate would have a Christmas. Children do learn what they live! Malena is one those special individuals and yes, she is very pretty but her real beauty is within because she has an open heart and a giving spirit!

Allow me to introduce you to Malena and her children, Mairyn Diane 14 years, Kevin 12 years, Alejandra 10 years old.

Written with permission by Becky Hicks