Four Former Russian Orphans Work with Unique Relief Project that Once Brought Them Hope

Now Living in the U.S., Girls Use Gift-Filled Shoeboxes to Help Children in Need

When Tamara, Natasha, Lena, and Alyona Morris lived as orphans in Russia, they received a life-changing present in the form of a gift-filled shoebox. Now living in Texas, they are sending similarly packaged gifts to other children in desperate need.

Each year, through the world's largest Christmas project of its kind, Operation Christmas Child, the Morris girls join thousands of volunteers who are packing shoeboxes with toys, school supplies, necessity items and handwritten notes of encouragement. These simple gift-filled shoeboxes are delivered to more than 8 million children around the world who are suffering from natural disaster, war, terrorism, disease, poverty and famine.

"I was 8 years old when I was given a shoebox gift and was so excited to get one," said 17-year-old Lena Morris, who received the gift from Operation Christmas Child while living in a Russian orphanage. "I thought...if I ever get adopted, that's what I will want to do—pack a box and tell orphans there's someone out there who cares."

Lena and her sisters' lives have changed dramatically since orphanage-life. They now reside in Ft. Worth with their mom, dad and younger sisters, Anastasia and Gabriella—who are all involved in the kids-helping-kids project. The family is already busy gathering items on sale and storing them until they begin packing their shoeboxes in mid-October and early November.

"Before we adopted, we were already involved in Operation Christmas Child. I had no idea my daughters were being impacted by the project," said mom and Operation Christmas Child volunteer, Marla Morris. "Packing a gift for a child might seem so simple and small, but from my children's personal stories, I know firsthand that shoebox gifts have life-long impact." 

Operation Christmas Child, a project of international relief and evangelism organized by Samaritan's Purse and headed by Franklin Graham, uses whatever means necessary—ships, trucks, buses, trains, airplanes, helicopters, boats, camels, even dog sleds—to reach suffering children. Like the Morris girls, this will be the first gift many of these children have ever received, letting them know they are loved and not forgotten. 

Since 1993, Operation Christmas Child has delivered shoebox gifts to more than 77 million hurting children in more than 130 countries.

For more information on how to participate in Operation Christmas Child, call 800.353.5949 or visit National Collection Week is Nov. 15 – 22, 2010.

Coverage Opportunities:

  • Interview & Coverage opportunities: 
    • 19-year-old Natasha Morris and her sister 17-year-old Lena Morris, who both received a shoebox gift while orphans in Russia. Now living in Ft. Worth with their adopted family, Natasha and Lena know firsthand the powerful impact of a simple shoebox gift. Both are thrilled to now have the opportunity to pack shoebox gifts for other children in need overseas.
    • Marla Morris, an Operation Christmas Child volunteer
  • Plan to visit one of 2,700 drop-off sites open in all 50 states during Nov. 15 – 22 as volunteers help collect 8 million gift-filled shoeboxes
  • Follow Operation Christmas Child staff via daily updates on FacebookTwitterVimeo and YouTube


Marla Morrismother of six daughters—four of who received shoebox gifts as former Russian orphans
  • "Our family's participation is about helping children and orphans in need. Through packing a shoebox gift, we have a personal connection with children in need."
  • "When we adopted our five daughters from Russia, we had no idea they had received shoebox gifts through Operation Christmas Child—a project we were doing years before we began our international adoptions."

17-year-old Lena Morris, who received a shoebox gift as a needy child living in Russia
  • "I was 8-years-old when I was given a shoebox gift and was so excited to get one."
  • "I thought...if I ever get adopted that's what I will want to do—to pack a box and tell orphans there's someone out there who cares."
19-year-old Natasha Morris, who received a shoebox gift as a needy child living in Russia
  • "In the orphanage we did not get things very often and that's why it was such a big deal to get a shoebox gift. It was so nice to know that someone out there—like other people we didn't know—cared enough to give us gifts."


About Operation Christmas Child
Operation Christmas Child is a kids-helping-kids project of Samaritan's Purse that uses simple gift-filled shoeboxes to let children in need know that they are loved and not forgotten. In 2010, Operation Christmas Child will reach more than 8 million children—many of whom have never received a gift before—with a message of hope and love.