Longtime Chevron employee Ann Ciurczak is helping to keep dozens of local families warm this holiday season, all because she loves knitting and crocheting.
It began about a decade ago, when Ciurczak, who had been knitting clothing items for a homeless shelter near her home, learned that her employer had created the program Chevron Humankind, which encouraged employees to become involved in the communities where they worked.
Luckily for Richmond, Ciurczak responded to that call in a big way. After reaching out to colleagues at the Chevron Richmond Refinery, where she worked at the time, she was introduced to a representative of the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program, which serves local community members in need.
She not only began knitting, she convinced colleagues to join her in an effort to keep community members warm during the winter.
In the first year, Ciurczak’s so-called Knit for GRIP program created 25 knitted hats, scarves, socks and other clothing items benefitting GRIP clients. That number progressively increased over the years to 260 items last year. This holiday season, a new record was set with 270 items made by dozens of volunteer employees, not just from the Refinery but from other Chevron locations in the Bay Area.
Of all volunteer opportunities at the Refinery, Knit For Grip is among those attracting the highest number of participants. Ciurczak said some employees send her items throughout the year.
“They know I’m going to do it every year,” she said.
On Tuesday, several volunteers gathered in a Refinery conference room to collect and count tagged items that were set to be shipped to GRIP as holiday gifts for people in need. One employee said she learned how to knit from her grandmother. Several others said they learned by watching instructional YouTube videos. Employee Orin Wakefield said he learned at a 4-H Club where he bred sheep and learned to knit using their fur.
The more experienced knitters of the bunch can create a hat in about four hours. The average for all clothing items is nine hours, said Ciurczak, particularly for beginners.
“At Chevron you have perfectionists who will start and unravel and start and unravel until they get it to the way they like it,” she said.
However it comes, GRIP’s clients very much appreciate both the gesture and the added warmth during the winter holidays.