By Olivia Scheck
ROCKEFELLER CENTER — The holiday season may have come to a close, but the spirit was alive and well Saturday morning as workers milled the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree into lumber.
The 74-foot Norway Spruce was craned down around midnight and sliced into approximately 600 2x6 planks, which will be used by Habitat for Humanity to build and restore homes in Newburgh, New York, 60 miles north of the city.
Marci Gurton, Director of Development for the Newburgh Habitat affiliate said much of the wood would be used to restore a home for Mary Melody Burnett, a Newburgh healthcare worker and single mom with four kids and two grandchildren.
“Before she came to us, they were living in a two bedroom apartment,” Gurton said. “Her eldest daughter was living in one of the bedrooms, with the two grandchildren sleeping in a closet.”
Now, Burnett is on her way to owning her own house, having logged the required 250 “sweat-equity hours” on other projects, Gurton said.
But Burnett, who couldn’t make it to the milling because she had to work, didn’t stop there. Just the other day, Gurton said, Burnett was on site helping to build a home for another Habitat family.
“The generosity of her donating extra time, beyond what was required of her, to help another family really speaks to her character,” the development director added.
Around 40 volunteers from the Newburgh Habitat for Humanity branch were also on hand to watch the 12-ton tree, originally donated by a New York City fireman and 9/11 first responder, turned into building materials.
This is the fourth year in a row that Rockfeller Center has donated the Christmas tree to Habitat for Humanity. Before that the tree had been turned into mulch for use in national parks and at the Central Park Zoo, according to Keith Douglas, Managing Director of Sales and Marketing for Tishman Speyer, which co-owns and manages Rockefeller Center.
Pieces of the tree that aren’t usable as lumber will be turned into paper for a limited edition book about the lifecycle of the Rockefeller Center Chirstmas tree called “The Carpenter's Gift,” Douglas added.