We contacted Habitat for Humanity to get the full story behind what happened to the ghosts of Christmas trees past, and Chris Clarke, senior vice president of marketing and communications, told us the program has been going on since 2007 (which is the same year New York’s Christmas tree went green with LED lights). The first donated tree was milled into materials to build a new home for a Hurricane Katrina survivor living in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Clarke said the program was originally thought up in September 2005, just two weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck the Golf Coast. NBC, Warner Music, and Tishman Speyer (the company that owns and operates Rockefeller Center) partnered together to transform Rockefeller Plaza into the Humanity Plaza.
“Over one week, employees from all three companies helped frame more than 60 houses to help families affected by the hurricane,” Clarke explained over email. After volunteers from around the city and beyond constructed these home frames, they were put onto trucks and shipped Mississippi and Louisiana to house Katrina victims.
“Inspired by that effort, Tishman Speyer decided to continue their support of Habitat’s mission by donating the annual Christmas tree,” Clarke continued. “Each year, lumber milled from the tree is used by a designated Habitat affiliate to help build a simple, decent and affordable homes in partnership with a family in need.”
Since the program’s inception, lumber milled from Rockefeller Center Christmas trees have helped build homes in New York City; Stamford, Connecticut; Newburgh, New York State; and as far as Philadelphia. Clarke said this year’s tree, a 76-foot Norway Spruce hailing from Shelton, Connecticut, will be used to construct a home in Bridgeport, Connecticut.