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Faith Hill, an outspoken advocate for the victims of Hurricane Katrina in the five years since the devastating storm ravaged Louisiana, returned to New Orleans to perform a free concert for the local residents on August 24. Sponsored by Tide's Loads of Hope program, of which Faith is a proud ambassador, the evening was a way for the country superstar to encourage and motivate those who are still facing difficulties in the storm's lengthy aftermath.
"You would be hard-pressed to find people like this anywhere in the world," Faith tells Nola.com. "They made the choice to stay and rebuild because they love the city so much ... everything's moving in the right direction."
Faith and her husband, Louisiana-native Tim McGraw, were motivated to action in the days immediately following Katrina, gathering supplies and traveling to New Orleans within days of the storm. "I felt so helpless at my comfortable little home in Tennessee," Faith recalls. "Tim and I and our friends that work with us felt, 'We don't know what we're doing, but we have to do something.'" That something involved redirecting their charitable foundation, the Neighbor's Keeper Foundation, to specifically aid storm victims. "We felt like it was our job to do whatever we could," she explains. "Having grown up in this area, you feel a natural connection to the people here, and the space. You want to preserve it."
Faith's concert, which incorporated several of her past hits including This Kiss' and 'Let Me Let Go,' also featured the famous New Orleans Dirty Dozen Brass Band, who backed the Grammy-winning singer on her emotional tune, 'There Will Come a Day.' "We are here for you," Faith assured the packed crowd. "You are not forgotten."
As the city pauses to reflect on the five years since Hurricane Katrina, Faith says it's important to also remember those struggling in the aftermath of the recent oil spill in the Gulf. "[It's] not even another chapter. It's like another book," she says. "Tourism is down a staggering percentage. These people survive by the summer months. It's hard to wrap your head around it."
Still, in spite of all the hardships the residents have endured, Faith is optimistic about their future. "My message is come to New Orleans and experience this great city," she says. "Yes, there are places that are still rebuilding and are not quite back yet, but when they do come back, they'll come back better."