To honor her life’s work, her family recently joined with Carrollton First United Methodist Church, where she was a member, to create “The Backpack Project,” a program to provide weekend food packs for students at Carrollton Middle School.
“We had been doing backpacks for several years, but could only do a few at a time,” said Claire Cooley, staff director of children’s ministries at Carrollton First United Methodist Church. “We had been relying on donations from many different sources, with money only trickling in.”
Cooley said Dixie’s husband, Frank Satterfield, started a memorial fund in his wife’s name and establish the backpack program.
“He started the memorial fund and we’ve been able to use Tanner Grocery as a partner to get food in bulk,” Cooley said. “We did some shifting around and moving to create a space to store the backpacks and food.”
Project workers call the storage space, “Dixie’s Pantry.”
The project was also able to get a grant-in-kind from Snyder’s-Lance Inc. to donate peanut butter crackers, breakfast bars and other snack items for the backpacks.
“We have a NightLight program for our children, pre-K through fifth grade, which meets every Wednesday from 5 to 6:30 p.m. at our church,” Cooley said. “The fifth-graders in the program put together the backpacks. It’s something they look forward to doing each week.”
The fifth-graders pack about 20 backpacks at each meeting and they are taken by one of the children’s mother, Beth Carter, to Carrollton Middle School for distribution on Friday to the children for the weekend.
“Beth is a super mom of five and has always been very faithful in the backpack program,” Cooley said.
Backpack packers in the NightLight program include Kimmie Bennett, Kathryn Ruth Carter, Eli Garrett, T. J. Middlebrooks, Graham Satterfield, Jay Thomason, Lily Turner, Drew Threadgill, Lily Turner, Sydney Coleman, Summerville Hill, Caroline Carter, Alicia Acree, McKenna Walker and Haley Bills.
NightLight teachers are Marianna Carter, Casey Shostak, Beth Garrett and Sarah Thomason.
Each weekend backpack contains two breakfast bars, two individual packs of oatmeal or grits, two packs of peanut butter crackers, two cans of meat, such as Vienna sausage or tuna, soup or beef stew, one individual serving of macaroni and cheese and two fruit cups.
“At Christmas, we’re able to send along a little extra,” Cooley said. “We pack a bigger bag, with family-size canisters of oatmeal or grits, family-sized cans of hearty soups, a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter and a jar of jelly.”
Cooley said the church is looking at ways to expand the program further, possibly doing summer food programs and finds better foods for the backpacks.
She said the teachers and counselors at Carrollton Middle School get together and pick the children who need the food for the weekend.
“It’s given to the students in inconspicuous backpacks before they go out the door for the weekend.” she said.
Cooley shared a note that was sent to her by one of the backpack recipients:
“I used to hate the weekends. Yeah, I looked forward to getting away from teachers and tests, but no school meant no food for my little brother and me. During the week, we got a pretty good breakfast and lunch at school every day. Even pizza and corn is better than what we usually have at home, which is practically nothing.
“But this year, my weekends got better. Every Friday afternoon, I get called up to the counselor’s office. Not because I’m in trouble, but because of this really cool thing that a church here in town does. They fill up a backpack with food so I can eat when we’re not at school. Good food … soup, applesauce, meat, crackers, granola bars, oatmeal, and even macaroni and cheese. The people at that church may not ever know how much they’ve helped my brother and me. My grandma used to tell me about acting and talking in a way that others would see my light and see Jesus in me. I hope this church knows I see their light. I see Jesus in them.”
Satterfield was born on Feb. 22, 1954, in Atlanta. She graduated from Douglas County High School and received her bachelor’s degree in psychology from University of West Georgia. She later received a specialist degree in counseling from UWG.
She worked for 22 years as a guidance counselor at Factory Shoals Elementary School in Douglas County. While working as a counselor, she helped “A Gift of Love,” a similar backpack program in Douglas County. She died on July 21, 2012.
Cooley said others can honor Dixie’s memory by donating to the backpack program.
“For $6, you can feed a local child for a weekend,” she said. “For $216, you can supply enough food for weekends throughout the entire school year for one of these hungry children.”