The Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in New York City brings joy to millions each holiday season. It’s also a gift that keeps giving year-round. After the lights are stripped off in the new year, the famed tree brings joy for Habitat for Humanity homeowners.
Since 2007, Tishman Speyer, the owner and operator of Rockefeller Center, has donated lumber milled from the tree to Habitat for Humanity affiliates, benefitting homeowners in Pascagoula, Miss.; Stamford and Bridgeport, Conn.; Madison, N.J.; Philadelphia; Newburgh, N.Y.; and New York City. The trunks are milled into 2x4 and 2x6 beams, and the flexible and durable wood of a Norway spruce is ideal for joining or reinforcing frames as well as for flooring, furniture, and cabinetry.
A children’s book was even inspired by the annual donation. Published in 2011, “The Carpenter's Gift: A Christmas Tale about the Rockefeller Center Tree” by David Rubel in collaboration with Habitat for Humanity is a holiday story about helping neighbors in need.
Habitat for Humanity of Greater Newburgh has received the lumber the past four years as well as in 2010. Depending on the tree, the affiliate has received from a half of a pallet to a couple of pallets of lumber, according to Matt Arbolino, executive director of the affiliate.
The 2018 Christmas tree was from about 15 minutes from Newburgh, and its lumber was cut down to be used in more houses and in a more visible way as shelving in seven pantries. “The tree symbolizes setting up roots and a home,” he says.
It also symbolizes the mission of Habitat for Humanity, which works in communities in all 50 states and in more than 70 countries to help families and individuals build or improve their homes. Homeowners work alongside volunteers as well as pay affordable mortgages for their housing.
“It’s more than building housing,” says Arbolino.“It’s about building community and hope around it. What we try to do as an organization is make the giving season last all year-round.”
Habitat for Humanity will announce in 2020 the location where the lumber from the this year’s Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, a Norway spruce from Florida, N.Y., will be utilized.