The New Orleans area Habitat for Humanity is on a mission, to build houses, lots of them, and in the process the non-profit organization is rebuilding lives.

This past weekend, Habitat Nola hosted its second annual Romp with Us at Palmer Park for the purpose of connecting the organization to the community in one celebratory family-style afternoon. For a fee, teams signed up for a sort of intramural competition that pitted team against team for the title, a Golden Hammer and the grand prize of a one-week vacation in Perdido Key, Florida.

Challenges included volleyball, bocce ball, tug-of-war and even a hammer time construction game that definitely wasn’t easy. Entertainment for the day came by the popular 610 Stompers and the Hot 8 Brass Band who were investing a little sweat-equity for one of their own. Bandleader Terrell Batiste recently moved into his brand new home with the help and support of the New Orleans Habitat for Humanity organization. Performing at the Romp was Batiste’s last installment of donated time that each homeowner must fulfill.

“I’m here with my band members and a happy man because for the fist time in my life I’m a homeowner thanks to Habitat for Humanity.”

Batiste commuted from Atlanta for his gigs after Katrina until he applied for Habitat’s program and was approved. Each member of Hot 8 also pitched in with service hours to support Batiste in his quest to return home.

“I owe it all to the wonderful and caring people at Habitat — I love every single one of them,” Batiste said.

At the helm of the New Orleans area Habitat is Executive Director Jim Pate.

I first met Jim at the groundbreaking ceremony of Musicians Village, nearly 8 years ago. New Orleans was just beginning to recover from the deep wounds inflicted by Hurricane Katrina.

Today, Pate’s role is much the same, that of providing safe, quality, and affordable housing to good people who are seeking to improve their lives with a little hand up by people who care. Pate spoke of an expanding portfolio of services that Habitat currently oversees. One program, a Brush of Kindness, focuses on lite refurbishing of existing homes in the program, such as a fresh coat of paint, lead abatement, or constructing access ramps for the elderly or physically handicapped residents.

“Today is as much about celebrating our work as it is about connecting to the community,” Pate said. “It’s important that people know we are committed to continuing our quest to offer decent, safe and affordable housing.”

It’s also important that people understand that Habitat for Humanity relies on donations and the community’s support. The need is great and the mission so noble, so get involved and help others by supporting the New Orleans area Habitat for Humanity.

To learn more about the organization and to check out future events, visit www.habitat-nola.org.

La Vie de Ville captures city life New Orleans style every Thursday in The New Orleans Advocate’s Crescent City News section. For coverage of your community event, please send requests in advance to robertagrove@hotmail.com.