One man’s love for his family combined with his passion for barbecue led him to inspire a community to rally around him for one admirable display of human kindness. The act of kindness played out on a rainy Sunday afternoon in a Buford vineyard.
Motorists traveling up Atlanta Highway through Hall County may have noticed an older gentleman selling barbecue at the corner of Gaines Ferry Road and Atlanta Highway. Seventy-year-old Albert O’Neal has been a staple in the area for years. He is known for his delicious food, but even more so for his kind and giving spirit, for his integrity.
Albert is a family man who believes in working hard and providing for his family, which includes taking care of his grandchildren. He works a full-time job and then sells his food in his free time to help make ends meet.
Jennifer and Duane Sudderth have known Albert for ages and often stop to chat with him and pick up dinner from him. They noticed how rough Albert’s barbecue rig had gotten and decided that something must be done to help him. After a very short discussion, Jennifer started a GoFundMe on April 1, 2021, to raise money to purchase a new barbecue rig for Albert.
“Most kind-hearted, sweetest man willing to give the shirt off his back” is how Jennifer describes Albert and said this is exactly why she and her husband felt compelled to help a man who gives of himself so selflessly.
The Sudderths partnered with Sean Wilborn, the owner of Cloudland Vineyards and Winery in Buford, to help raise money for Albert. The fundraiser was a success, raising more than $2,000 for the new barbecue rig. And Duane happened to know where to find the perfect rig for Albert. Duane’s nephew, Lawton Burnette, had recently built a new barbecue rig from scratch and after hearing all about Albert and what the Sudderths were trying to do, he cut them a deal on the rig.
On Sunday, June 27, the Sudderths and Wilborn gathered with others who all know and love Albert under the false pretense that it was Jennifer’s birthday at Cloudland in Buford. Albert was also invited to the “birthday party.”
Albert’s new barbecue rig, complete with a double-sided smoker, refrigerator, generator, umbrella and various other supplies, sat tucked out of sight behind a vehicle waiting for the big reveal.
Albert arrived at the party and was seated so that when the vehicle was moved, the rig would be in sight. Albert was talking with everyone at the “party” when Duane and Jennifer let Albert know the true purpose of the gathering.
Jennifer looked at Albert and said, “It’s not my birthday. My birthday was two weeks ago. This is about you Albert. We as a community have put together something for you because you have helped everybody here. You have helped everyone around Buford and Flowery Branch and everyone loves your food.”
Jennifer motioned for Albert, who looked confused, to follow her. She led Albert to where he could see the new barbecue rig that was revealed as the vehicle was moved. She pointed to the rig and told Albert that it was all his.
Albert’s reaction was worth every cent that was donated and spent on his new barbecue rig. He took off his hat and kept saying, “Oh, lord,” as Jennifer took him to inspect the rig. Albert was in amazement over the gift.
The outpouring of love and support from a group of people who have been impacted by Albert’s generous spirit was something truly special to witness. All around you could hear the joy that was felt during this moment.
Albert, who sells his barbecue under the name “Who Dat Barbecue” has been invited by Sean to cook on Friday nights at Cloudland Vineyards. Stop by and grab some barbecue, meet Albert and have a glass of wine from the winery one Friday night. Albert has also started accepting catering jobs, including weddings, company events, holidays, birthday parties and family reunions. Albert can be reached at 470-208-0873.
Cloudland Vineyards and Winery is located at 3796 N. Bogan Road in Buford. For more information on Cloudland, check them out on Facebook at facebook.com/cloudlandwines.