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Adopted sisters stay connected to birth country

Stephanie Merchant, known by many loyal followers as The Nutrition Mom, is passionate about a lot of things: healthy living, nutrition and work-life balance, to name a few. But her biggest passion lies in her family.

Stephanie, and her husband, Troy, adopted their two daughters, Brooke, 14, and Kara, 9, from Russia and have spent most of their parenting lives teaching them the value of helping others and trying to keep them connected to their native country.

The Houston parents learned about Buckner ministries through their church, Second Baptist Houston. They were immediately drawn to Buckner Shoes for Orphan Souls®, the largest humanitarian aid project of Buckner International, which distributes brand new shoes to children in the United States and around the world. Some of the shoes collected are sent to Russia.

“I wanted them to be involved on a deeper level to something that’s a little bit more personal,” Stephanie said. “I’m so happy we’ve been able to find something to do as a family to deepen that connection and help the kids who are still there waiting for their forever families.”

The Merchant family has traveled to Dallas twice for a “local” mission trip to help sort shoes at the Buckner Center for Humanitarian Aid. They wrote notes to be tucked into each pair of shoes for the recipient to read with their new shoes.

“It’s fabulous for my girls to realize who gets the shoes,” Stephanie said. “It felt like a really great way to give back and shed hope. I think it’s important for my children to realize where they came from. It’s a wonderful opportunity to enrich our lives while enriching the lives of others.”

The family also volunteers with Buckner locally at the Aldine Family Hope Center. They’ve done several work projects there, cleaning up the fields and community center, and Brooke has volunteered at a summer camp at Aldine.

The most important connection Stephanie wants Brooke and Kara to make is a connection to where they came from. Someday, she would love to take them to visit.

“I know (volunteering with Buckner) is special to them. They feel like they have more of a connection with these children because they were once in an orphanage, too.”

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