Last year's Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has second life in vet's new home



By NANCY LYNCH, RYAN GORMAN

America's most famous Christmas Tree will be lit Wednesday night, kicking off the holiday season in New York, but recent trees have gone to have even more important second acts.

Last year's 76-foot-tall, 12-ton Norway Spruce was milled into lumber used by Habitat for Humanity to build a home about an hour from Manhattan, in Connecticut, for a Marine vet and his family. They are expected to be moved in just in time to open presents under their own Christmas tree.

Dale and Marie Shaw, their nine-year-old son Anthony and seven-year-old daughter Salina have been living in a two-bedroom apartment nearby. The children have been sharing a bedroom.

The Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree has completely changed their lives.

Anthony and Selina chose the paint colors of their new bedrooms. Anthony says he "can't wait" to have a quiet space to do his homework.

The house is "a dream come true for my family. I never thought owning a home would ever be possible," their father told AOL News.

Habitat for Humanity of Coastal Fairfield County made that dream became a reality. This is the eighth consecutive year the iconic tree has been built by Habitat into a home after dazzling millions in the city.

Well over 100 volunteers who have worked on the Shaws' Bridgeport home since breaking ground in May 2014. Build teams have been comprised of corporate, faith-based and civic groups.

The non-profit has helped families in need build, rehabilitate or upgrade 189 homes in Bridgeport, Stamford and Stratford since 1985, and Habitat International has aided more than five million people in 70 countries since its inception in 1976.

The Shaws are but one of a handful of families who will share in the holiday spirit with a home made from the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree.

"All our 2014 future homeowners have the spirit of the 'giving tree' in their home as the lumber from the tree was distributed equally," Bruce Berzin the president of Habitat CFC, told AOL. Berzin was very quick to acknowledge that the project was a group effort and it much wouldn't be possible without the support of the Elizabeth & Joseph Massoud Family Foundation.

When asked if the home's unique origin gave it any further meaning to the grateful families, Berzin replied: "Goodwill always brings positive energy".

"The Shaws embody the giving, cheerful Christmas spirit year round and that's why they were a perfect fit for the house."

The tree itself is from Connecticut, where it was planted as a seedling before growing into the behemoth towering over the Rockefeller Center ice skating rink last holiday season.

The Vargoshe family, of nearby Shelton, donated the tree from their yard.

Louise Vargoshe lamented the loss of their prized Norway Spruce.

This is where our children would play, swing and we would take family portraits," she told AOL. "We didn't realize how difficult it would be to cut it down until the day came."

But the spirit of giving brought on by Christmas provided the family with a silver lining in the form of the tree's second life.

"We were so happy that it brought people some joy in the season and now, the tree goes on," Vargoshe added. "We wish the Shaw family many happy years in their new home."

The non-profit requires homeowners to put in at least 500 hours of labor on the project, and Dale Shaw vows to keep hammering away until his family moves in.

He has already completed those hours and now spends his time helping to build other Habitat homes.

"It is important that I give back," he insists. "This is what it is all about, making other people's dreams come true too."

The rest of his family is now busy packing boxes and preparing their new home for the holidays.

When asked what he wanted for Christmas, Anthony sounded like the world's richest child.

"I don't need anything," he said while smiling. "I have my family and my new home. I have it all."

More on AOL:
What to do with your year-end bonus
What does the future hold for Barnes & Noble?
Feds investigating car seat recall