Shaquanna Bell was in middle school when she found out she was adopted. She was 33 and newly relocated to the Houston area when she discovered she had 13 other siblings she previously knew nothing about.
Bell first shared her story to Click 2 Houston Wednesday, March 6 and the chef has her niece to thank for putting her in touch with her biological family.
“The moment I saw her birth certificate and she showed it to me, I saw her mother’s name. I said, ‘Oh, I can find out for her,’” said Jaquelyn Collier, who is around the same age as Bell.
Bell, who moved to Fresno, Texas to be closer to her brother Donnie Bell, needed the materials to renew her license. But what Collier helped her aunt do was even better. Since Shaquanna Bell doesn’t have any social media accounts, Collier used her own Facebook page to search for her aunt’s biological family.
“I went to researching, and oh my gosh, the information I found, it gives me chills just thinking about it,” Collier said.
Using her aunt’s biological last name of Haines, Collier found a trove of posts from the biological relatives which spanned several years.
“’I just know that she’s out there, something like that,'” Collier recalls reading on a Facebook post. “‘We’re looking for Shaquanna,’ they said her name, and when they said Shaquanna in the comments, I said, ‘Oh, that can’t be a coincidence.'”
Then, Collier and her aunt learned that Shaquanna Bell was one of 14 total biological siblings.
“Well, I went from eight siblings to 21, so you know, that’s a big jump,” Shaquanna Bell told the news outlet.
Speaking to “Good Morning America” about the experience on March 11, Shaquanna Bell said she was stunned.
“I was like, ‘You’re kidding,'” she said. “I didn’t think she was serious. I felt overwhelmed and nervous because I thought I was the only child.”
But Shaquanna Bell was far from it. She said she was her biological mother’s 10th child. The oldest sibling is her 51-year-old sister Janell Haines and the youngest is 27-year-old Levell Lane.
Haines, who said she always knew she had another sister somewhere in the world, explained she and four of her siblings lived with their mother Equilla Haines, who died of ovarian cancer at age 47 in 1998. Other brothers and sisters were either in foster care or adopted. Janell said her mother “was an active drug user” and that she’s “been on my own since I was 15. We’ve just been all over the place.”
As for the feeling that washed over her when she finally found her sister, Janell Haines says she felt whole.
“I felt complete,” she said tearfully. “She’s been the missing piece to our puzzle. I’ve never got an opportunity to hold her in my arms. I didn’t think we were ever going to find her. We’ve all never been in one space together.”
And while Shaquanna Bell has video chatted and talked to all but one of her brothers and sisters, she’s looking to get them all face-to-face soon. She launched a GoFundMe campaign March 4 to help raise money to make that happen.
“We all live in different parts of the country and this would give us a chance to be reunited,” Shaquanna Bell explained on the fundraiser’s page. “Every sibling would be able to benefit from the money raised because it would help pay for a flight, hotel and renting a place for us all to gather.
“I would be eternally grateful to have a chance to begin to build a closer bond with the siblings I never knew,” she said.