Vernon and Helena Satterfield are solid, working-class folks who were visited in August by a fire that drove them from their comfortable apartment and a November layoff that cost Vernon his job. No matter. They are resilient and feel blessed this Christmas season. Last month they moved into a small, comfortable house in north Minneapolis, just in time to greet four daughters they've worked for months to adopt through African American Adoption Services of St. Paul.
"I've always worked in warehouses, factories and machine shops," said Satterfield, as he fed year-old Angel a bottle the other night. "The economy was short and my name was just on the list.
"My résumé is online. I'm looking for work. I've filed for unemployment. I'm not bitter or worried. We'll leave the rest to God. That's what I do: Serve God, my family and my community."
Satterfield, a friendly man with a strong grip, was unloading and assembling imported goods from China at Stein Industries in Brooklyn Park when business slowed markedly this fall. No hard feelings. Satterfield is grateful that the company sheltered him and Helena at a local motel after the fire and while they found another place to live.
"You hope everybody can get a hold of that attitude," said the Rev. Larry Cook, the Satterfields' pastor at Real Believers Faith Center in north Minneapolis. "Vernon and Helena always are people who help other people ... the first on my list to minister and care for our elderly, sick and poor. Vernon has prepared for this time. He knows that God will provide in the lean times."
The Satterfields, together for nearly 30 years, have mentored and helped raise many kids of relatives and friends over the years. They always wanted their own family, as well. They were crushed when an adoption of a boy fell through years ago when the child's teenage mother backed out of the deal at the last minute.
Vernon, 52, and Helena, 46, weren't looking to adopt four kids. They fell in love with Robin, 7, Alice, 5, and Erica, 4, who they first visited months ago at a foster home in White Bear Lake. When they learned from a Ramsey County social worker that the unmarried, chemically dependent mother also had a baby, they said they wanted little Angel as well.
"We were not going to break up those sisters," said Helena, who works for Stanley Security Systems in Plymouth.
"We knew the Lord had a plan for us."
They also met new friends recently through Real Believers Faith Center. During his period of unemployment, Vernon has put in extra hours delivering food, assisting needy families this season.
Taking care of the kids
Joy and Keith Tufte and their daughters, members of Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, had gathered with members of Real Believers on a recent Saturday to wrap and deliver presents to North Side kids who don't have fathers at home this holiday season.
Joy Tufte was overwhelmed by the Satterfields' adoption of the four girls. The older kids already are enrolled in dance class at the church and at preschool programs. They love their new home and Christmas tree. Friends of the Tuftes and Wooddale Church members showered the kids with Christmas clothes, toys and groceries.
Tufte, 45, knows something about going without at the holidays.
Raised in Minneapolis, she had an abusive stepdad. She and a brother fled to St. Joseph's Home for Children and lived with a foster family before she struck out on her own at age 16, got a job and an apartment.
"The only way we made it through the holidays was by the grace of other people," Tufte recalled. "When I was young, all I wanted was somebody who could make me feel safe. It was not in foster care. I decided at 16, I had to go out on my own.
"Helena's girls were in foster homes. They were bounced around. Helena and Vernon are providing a stable home. There is not a lot of money, but money doesn't matter. They love these girls. They are a family. They believe that this is God's plan. Helena has so much power and love and openness. We are sisters and we will stay in touch. I want these people in my life."
Keith Tufte is an always-modest MBA who has managed tens of millions of dollars on Wall Street, at Ameriprise Financial and now for his own firm. He doesn't have to worry about where his next dollar is coming from.
He said this week that the Satterfields are a great gift for his family
"Vernon and Helena have reminded me to think more about others and less about myself," Tufte said. "They reminded me what is really important in life. They are grateful for a beautiful family, a church, a God and congregation who will care for them. They are not bitter about what they don't have. That is the true spirit of Christmas."
Neal St. Anthony • 612-673-7144 • firstname.lastname@example.org