Two years ago, during the 2019 Aker-Burns-Hall-Williamson Family Reunion, a children’s book telling the story of a local teacher was presented to the Jefferson Public Library and to the Commerce Public Library. The book, "Mama Joe’s Kitchen" is about Mrs. Josie Colbert Aker, who lived in Jackson County and taught in a one-room school — Daniel Grove. This year, the book was donated to members of the Boys and Girls Clubs of Jackson County.

The storyteller/narrator of the book is Mrs. Aker’s fictionalized great-great granddaughter who retells the stories her own grandmother told her whenever she came to visit. The stories shared in the book are the real memories of the author, Carol Butler, when she lived with her grandmother. The memories of what it was like living on a farm, Sunday dinners with a houseful of relatives, and cooking without modern conveniences are all shared with young readers. The book also contains a few kid-friendly recipes.

Through a special book donation program created by the author and her husband, Tom Butler of Fort Wayne, Indiana, children’s books have been donated to elementary schools in Fort Wayne, Detroit, and Indianapolis; as well as to libraries, and youth organizations. Donors and supporters purchase books to be given in honor or memory of loved ones or “just because.”.

During the pandemic, the couple decided to start a new donation fundraiser for the Boys and Girls Clubs of Jackson County in honor of Mrs. Josie Aker. After speaking with Kendall Sims, CEO of the Boys and Girls Club of Jackson County, a total of 100 books would allow each family to have a book of their own.

At the end of May, for their first trip to Georgia to visit relatives since July 2019, the books were packed into the trunk of the car to travel south. However, school was out for the year and the club was closed.

On June 22, Sandra Aker, Mama Joe’s granddaughter and Carol’s cousin, presented 100 Mama Joe’s Kitchen books to the Boys and Girls Club of Jackson County. The books will be divided among the members of both the Jefferson and Commerce clubs.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for our young people to understand the importance of legacy and storytelling," Sims stated. "Mama Joe’s Kitchen is a great story full of history right here in Jackson County. It is also a great way for our kids to understand their own history. This is also great for our summer literacy program as we work to help kids increase their reading levels.”

Ms. Aker shared what it means to have this book about her grandmother now in the homes of so many young people: “My grandmother dedicated her life to the education of children. Knowing that Mama Joe’s Kitchen is being read by so many lets me know that her legacy still lives. I hope this book will not only encourage young children to read but to also journal their fun memories of growing up as a kid and attending the Jackson County Boys and Girls Club. “

The book, 8.5” x 11”, full-color, hardcover book is available to check out at both the Commerce and Jefferson Public Libraries and is also for sale for $9.99 on the author’s website:


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