USM student helps Woolmarket family recover from fire

WOOLMARKET, MS (WLOX) - When Sabrina and Leyon Oliver watched their home go up in flames last month, they didn't know where to turn for help. What was especially hard was losing all the toys and clothes belonging to a special needs child they are raising. The couple went on Facebook to ask for donations, and they received an immediate response from a USM student.

Sabrina Oliver remembers every frightening detail of the night her Woolmarket home burst into flames.

"I was in the home when the fire went under. It was like a whoosh sound," said Sabrina.

The family was getting ready for bed when Sabrina smelled smoke in the living room.

"I ran back and started screaming to get my daughter out of my home. I grabbed her and everything and I was on the phone with 911."

Sabrina managed to get 3-year-old Kimber out of the house safely. She also saved the child's wheelchair. Kimber has cerebral palsy. Sabrina and her husband are foster parents and the couple says they are in the process of adopting Kimber.

Smoke and water ruined all the toys and clothes Kimber received for Christmas and from her birthday party that took place just four days before the fire.

"I was devastated. My body just went numb. All I could do was just scream and cry. She still to this day asks, 'Mommy where's my Hello Kitty car and everything?' I'm like, 'Baby, the fire took it.'"

When USM Junior Whitney Ward learned that the family was seeking donations on Facebook, she organized a campus-wide clothing drive. Since Monday, she has received several bags of donations.

"It's been pretty good. I'm shocked and I hope more keeps coming in," said Ward.

Ward is a "Luckyday Scholar" at USM Gulfpark. The scholarship encourages community service, but this project has become a personal one for Whitney.

"The first time I donated to her it was outside of school, just meeting with her before all of this came into effect. She cried and it touched me inside. My daughter donated a baby doll. She gave the little girl a baby doll and she had just gotten a ring for her birthday and donated that as well, and that just touched me. It gave me chills."

"I was like, wow, there is really good people out there, because I thought we were at the end of our rope," said Sabrina.

She says every donation will help the family get back to normal.

"I'm really looking forward to that and seeing the look on their face when we go donate everything. I never imagined it would get this big, but I'm happy that it did and the family is getting help," said Ward.

Ward has placed donation boxes at these locations on the USM Long Beach campus: Fleming Education Center Rotunda, Library, Lloyd Hall, Hardy Hall Student Union and Admissions Parlor. There is also a box at the Gulf Coast Research Lab in Ocean Springs.

Items needed include:

Women's XL shirts, XL pants, size 10 shoes.

Men's 4-5 XL shirts, 46 pants, size 10 shoes.

Girl's 2-3T shirts, 24M-2T bottoms, size 7 shoes.

Next month, Ward plans to hold a toy drive for little Kimber.

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