Giving back can come in a million different forms, and one group in Portland, Oregon, has become extra creative in how they are contributing to local nonprofit groups. String of Purls is a knitting and crocheting group consisting of KeyBank employees and family members who take to the needle to help those in need.

The group was started in 2017 by Darbie Romig, KeyBank Executive Assistant to the Oregon and SW Washington Market President, Michelle Weisenbach.

When Romig’s mother passed away, she sought an activity that would help her through her grief, but also allow her to give to others. At the time, KeyBank Oregon was a partner with the American Heart Association’s Little Hats, Big Hearts program; through this effort, volunteers knit or crochet hats for newborns to raise awareness for congenital heart disease. Darbie jumped right in and started to knit. She recruited others to help, and soon over 300 little red hats were delivered to local hospitals.

In addition to the hats, the group has started working together on blankets for children in the foster care system.

Circle of Friends

Upward of 23 KeyBank employees and family members participate in the monthly knitting circle, which is also a great time to catch up and really get to know one another.

Weisenbach is a true champion of these efforts in the office and has even knitted some hats herself.

“String of Purls has brought folks together in and out of the office,” said Weisenbach. “I am humbled by the support they are giving to one another and the community.”

The group has created over 900 hats and is now working on blankets. Romig says the group varies in skill level, from beginners to veteran knitters and crocheters. The experts serve as teachers to those just starting out.

The efforts of the Oregon and SW Washington market has inspired other KeyBank markets to join the fun. Inspired by the original AHA project, the People of All Abilities KBING (Employee Business Impact Networking Group) in Cleveland has made over 1,000 hats for local Little Hats programs. The activity is another demonstration of KeyBank’s commitment to build stronger communities every day through hands-on volunteerism.

Romig didn’t know the impact knitting small hats would make, not only on nonprofit recipients, but the yarn crafters themselves.

“While monetary donations, board memberships and physical labor are all great ways to contribute to a nonprofit,” said Romig, “there are ways to make a difference that may seem minor or inconsequential but are truly impactful – to the organization and ourselves.”