Our Stories

A Lifetime of Giving

[Story update: Barbara Howard passed away on November 7, 2019 but the legacy she left behind will continue for generations. One of the ways she did that was through becoming a founding member of our Legacy Society. By including the Community Foundation in her will, her giving – and her impact in her community – continues in perpetuity.]

When fundholder Barbara Howard and her late husband Henry moved to Gwinnett in 1972, it didn’t take them long to get involved in the community. One of their first big moves was to establish the Gwinnett Chapter of the American Cancer Society, with the help of two other couples.

“After that, both of us really got into fundraising,” Barbara said. “Our next big thing was Gwinnett Medical.”

Then came the Hudgens Arts Center, the Community Foundation and a host of other organizations.

“We had many causes that mattered to us, such as the Community Foundation, Rainbow Village, Peachtree Christian Hospice and more,” Barbara said. “I just like to go do and do things for people and I find that helps me!”

In 1960, Barbara and Henry started Suzanna’s Kitchen, supplying restaurants with barbecue, Brunswick stew and uncooked hamburger patties. Four years later they built a plant in Dekalb County and began producing frozen hamburgers and other types of meat products for the food service industry. According to the Gwinnett Chamber, their largest customer was Hardee’s and they also supplied hamburgers for a start-up chain called Burger King. Along the way, Suzanna’s also became one of the first U.S. companies to develop an automated hand-forming process for beef products for national restaurant chains. Eventually they moved the operation to Gwinnett, opening a new plant on Buford Highway and then a large food distribution warehouse.

Not only did Barbara and Henry support local nonprofits, so did Suzanna’s Kitchen. Giving back to the community on a personal and business level was important to both of them. They were the lead donors in the campaign that helped build Gwinnett Medical Center – Duluth, and Suzanna’s Kitchen, among other donations, made a large gift to Gwinnett Medical’s Open Heart campaign.

In 2013, Barbara was honored as Citizen of the Year at the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce’s 65th Annual Dinner.

“Gwinnett County has been good to us and we always wanted to give back,” Barbara said. “Through the years we really met so many wonderful people.

“These days I just continue to do the things I have been doing. I’m on the board of Peachtree Christian Hospice, an emeritus board member of the Hudgens and very active with Rainbow Village. I know it’s better for me to keep going and so that’s what I’m doing!”

A current board member of the Community Foundation, Barbara has been a fundholder since 2006.

“I really do appreciate the Community Foundation and what it does for fundholders and the community. I think it’s an exceedingly good thing to be a part of,” Barbara said. “They are very, very easy to work with and have had great leadership through the years and continue to do so.

“In my opinion, becoming a fundholder at the Community Foundation will bless you as much as it will bless the people you want to help.”