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Faith follows for bus aide after fire

Faith is the first name of a Suffolk Public Schools bus aide who lost her second-floor Carolina Road apartment and her possessions in a January fire, but it’s also what held her together.

Though she didn’t know what would happen following the fire, Faith Holliman put her trust in God, and she had hope.

But she didn’t figure on how fast others who barely knew her would come together to help.

“God worked fast for me,” Holliman said from her new apartment. “He worked a miracle.”

Holliman was at work as a bus aide for special needs children and had just dropped off students at Creekside Elementary School when she learned of the fire, which was reported at 8:59 a.m.

About that time, she began receiving calls from her daughter, Shanita Holliman, who lived in the apartment with her and smelled the fire before getting out.

When she was finally able to check her phone after her bus made its run, Holliman got to her car and raced home, but she couldn’t get within three blocks of it because the road was blocked off. By the time she walked the remaining distance, she was seeing possessions from her apartment being thrown out the window.

“I said, ‘Lord, I don’t know what I’m going to do, but I trust You, that You will make a way, and that everything will go right,’” Holliman said.

When the bus staff learned about what happened to Holliman’s apartment, they wanted to help quickly.

“We heard the story, and felt the need to go up there and say, ‘We’re real sorry to hear what happened, and what can we do, as bus drivers and aides, to make your situation better,’” said bus driver Mary Ann Fassnacht. “That’s when she said, ‘I’ve pretty much lost everything — clothes, house goods, her furniture was all destroyed. That’s what made me want to step forward and do something good for someone and help them.”

Suffolk Public Schools’ Department of Transportation, as well as school bus drivers, students, staff members at Mack Benn Jr. and Creekside elementary schools, and neighbors in the Burbage Grant community, got donations of furniture, clothing, food, money and more to help Holliman, and then helped load and deliver everything to her.

“You name it, I got it,” Holliman said.

Television, living room set, love seat, pictures, a kitchen table, a vacuum cleaner, plants. Some new, some used, but all of those things, they brought to her.

That and more — it was everything she needed, and then some. She remains humbled by their generosity.

“When you do right by God, when you’re serving God, He will just blow your mind, and they really blew my mind,” Holliman said. “My co-workers made everything right for me, and I’m so grateful.

“I don’t take it for granted, because never in your wildest dreams do you think that this would happen to you. You’re going to work and you get a phone call, and (you find out) your house is on fire, you’re like, ‘What? Naah.’”

She stayed with a daughter for about a month, and then she received a call from her godson, who had found a place for her to live on Brook Avenue, not far from her old apartment. Four days after that call, she got the keys to that apartment.

“I really never knew that people cared that much,” Holliman said.

Director of Transportation Keba Baldwin said this is the norm in the department.

“They’ve been doing this forever,” Baldwin said. “When they found out a bus (aide) such as Ms. Holliman had bad luck, they came together. They do a lot where it’s not always broadcast.”

Holliman, who won the Pilot Club of Suffolk’s Bus Driver’s Aide of the Year of Children with Disabilities in 2017, may not see her co-workers a lot due to the nature of their jobs, but that doesn’t make her any less grateful. It has built a stronger bond between them.

“One of the bus drivers called over to me and she gave me a big hug,” Holliman said. “She said, ‘I’m so happy everything worked out for you. I’m just glad everything worked out for you. I was so worried about you.’”

Holliman is forever grateful, and she has a message for her co-workers and all those who helped her.

“If it weren’t for you all, and for the Lord’s help, I don’t know how I’d have made it,” Holliman said. “You made it so smooth for me.”