Chevron employees team up to ‘Knit for GRIP’

Chevron employees pose with some of the items they helped knit for clients of the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program in Richmond.

A dedicated mom, career woman and prolific knitter, Ann Ciurczak wears many hats. And for a brief while, she also possessed many hats: 159, to be exact.

That’s because Ciurczak, a Project Management Lead at Chevron, is also dedicated to keeping community members in need warm during the holidays.

For more than a decade, Ciurczak has organized Knit for GRIP, where she invites fellow employees from the Richmond Refinery and other Chevron locations in the Bay Area to join her in knitting (and crocheting) items to donate to clients of the Greater Richmond Interfaith Program, which provides food, shelter and resources to community members in need.

This year, employees created 207 items, not just 159 hats but also 34 scarves, four stuffed animals, six ear warmers, two hair clips and one head warmer.

As she does annually, Ciurczak tagged each item with a label that reads, “Handknit by Chevron Humankind,” before their delivery to GRIP.

GRIP’s Siu Laulea isn’t just grateful for the program, she’s an active knitter too.

“This is where I learned how to knit; other than this, I wouldn’t know how,” Laulea said last week while picking up the items at the Chevron Richmond Technology Center.

Laulea said the knitted items were set to be gifted to clients in GRIP’s shelter in Richmond that can house up to 75 people. The remaining items are passed out to other people in the community who utilize GRIP’s services.

Knitting is fun and easy to learn, Laulea said.

“Don’t be afraid,” she said. “It’s fun and relaxing, I enjoy it.”

Chevron employees meet for a lunch session every year to discuss the program and to train beginners. Ciurczak also meets with colleagues and sends the YouTube videos on how to pick up the skill.

Before Knit for Grip launched, Ciurczak had been knitting for the homeless in her neighborhood. When the Chevron Humankind program launched in 2008, providing grants to support employee volunteer efforts at nonprofits, Ciurczak connected with Laulea to start Knit for GRIP.

“We advertised for it, did it in Richmond first, and the first year we had 25 scarves, that was it,” Ciurczak  said.

News about the program spread in the company and soon employees began contributing not only from Chevron Richmond, but also from Chevron headquarters in San Ramon and other Bay Area locations. Now, roughly 200 members of the community receive one of the handmade gifts each year, making their holiday season a little warmer.

GRIP’s Siu Laulea isn’t just grateful for the program, she’s an active knitter too.