GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Marla Jones Ivester and her brother just met for the first time.
She reached out with this somewhat random, but somewhat surprising and in many ways beautiful story that she was hoping could be told.
It begins February 17, 1976, the day Marla was born in Gaston County. She was adopted a month later by Dean and Betty Jones.
Marla says throughout her childhood, her parents never hid that she was adopted. In fact, Marla says her mom encouraged her to find her biological family.
Marla said she never felt the need.
In her 20s and 30s however, several medical diagnoses popped up. They all led to questions about her health history.
She says her doctor eventually asked point blank, "Have you thought about looking for them for medical reasons?"
"No," she thought. "I hadn't."
That's when she decided she should.
She emailed the adoption agency at DSS and found out both her biological parents had died.
"So I asked DSS if they could help find my medical history by using my social security number and birth date," she said.
"They said they couldn't without contacting my siblings first for approval. Siblings? What? That's when my interest was really piqued. I didn't even know I had biological siblings."
While Marla was excited, she was also scared.
"What if they didn't want to meet me?" she wondered. "What box have I opened?"
Within 48 hours, DSS told Marla about one of her siblings, Andy. He was a senior pastor at a local church and wanted to meet her.
Marla tracked him down on Facebook, messaged him instantly and as she puts it, "That was that!"
Last November, Marla and Andy met. It went so well, Andy invited Marla and her husband to celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas with his family, and her other four half-siblings.
"I can't describe it in words," she said. "To gain another wonderful family. It has meant the world. Andy has opened his arms."
Marla's adopted family has opened their arms to the concept too. Marla says both her adoptive parents and her brother have met Andy and are supportive of the relationship and interested in getting to know him better.
"The world is small," Marla said. "And full of good people."