Gerard Veal, 3, and his sister Mia Veal, 5, participate in a ribbon cutting ceremony with singer Tony Bennett, right, Barnes & Noble chairman Leonard Riggio, center, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, third left, to commemorate the 101st and final home built by ‘Project Return Home,’ a rebuilding effort started by Riggio after Hurricane Katrina, in New Orleans, Friday, Nov. 11, 2011. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Grammy-winning jazz crooner Tony Bennett is championing a rebuilding effort to help New Orleans residents displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
At the site of the 101st and final house built by Project Home Again, the 85-year-old singer said Friday that bringing people home is important to protecting the culture and traditions of New Orleans.
Says Bennett: “The gospel music, the music that started in churches here that created the art form of jazz, that needs to be preserved.”
He looked on as a gospel choir clapped and swayed while singing “Oh Happy Day” and “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” to commemorate the project founded by his friends, New York couple Leonard and Louise Riggio.
After seeing Katrina’s devastation on their TV sets following the 2005 storm, the Riggios pledged to build homes for low- and middle-income families who were forced from their homes with little hope of returning.