Faith Hill's Hope & Joy

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Reaching Out

For now the foundation is funding projects close to the couple's Gulf Coast origins, a decision reinforced by a trip the couple made immediately after Hurricane Katrina hit, to deliver food and supplies to the Red Cross in Gulfport, Mississippi. Neither was prepared for the misery and devastation they saw. "As we traveled down it just got worse and worse," Hill recalls. "To see the reports on the news is nothing like being there."

After sifting through hundreds of worthy requests, Hill and McGraw decided to support the Community Initiatives Foundation, a Baton Rouge organization started by Sister Judith Brun. The program, which serves the largest post-storm trailer city in Baton Rouge, uses art therapy to help children still traumatized by Katrina's destruction. "It's amazing what these kids draw, what they're thinking, what they're feeling," says Hill of images that include submerged houses and dead bodies floating in water. "They're so burdened by things that only adults should be burdened by." (The children's artwork can be seen at www.katrinaexhibit.org.)

As for the privileged McGraw daughters, teaching by example has proved the most effective way of encouraging them to count their blessings. After the Gulf Coast trip, Hill shared the photos with them. "We try to be very honest with our kids about what's really happening," she says. "They have a pretty good grasp on it."

Indeed, Hill notes, all three have a refreshingly blase attitude about their parents' celebrity. Recently, however, Gracie encountered -- on a school field trip, no less -- the glammed-up version of her mom enshrined in a glass case at the Country Music Hall of Fame, in downtown Nashville. The display features the spangled gold Versace dress and strappy pink snakeskin heels that Hill wore on VH1's Divas Live in 2000. "She saw the shoes and goes, 'Mom, I've never seen those before,'" Hill says, laughing. "'Can I have them?'"

Hill understands Gracie's shoe lust -- among her own prized possessions is a pair of signed patent-leather stilettos given to her by Tina Turner -- but the object she treasures most is hardly glamorous. Recently Edna Perry gave her daughter the bowl in which Perry mixed her signature corn-bread stuffing for 45 years. Hill will be using that sacred vessel on Thanksgiving Day when she makes her mother's stuffing. Perry, sadly, won't be there. Because of a stroke suffered a few years ago, she cannot travel to Nashville for the holiday. "It's hard," says Hill. "I do feel an urgency to be near her."

By Christmas Eve, as Hill's album is doubtless topping the charts and McGraw is whipping up his trademark spaghetti dinner, Edna Perry should be done making the peanut-butter balls her neighbors have come to expect. And Hill will rest easier knowing they'll be looking for her mom and dad to drop by. "Everyone in Star takes care of everyone else," she says. "Always. They're just good neighbors."

Originally published in Ladies' Home Journal, November 2008.

 

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