Bank of America Employees ‘Profit’ by Crocheting

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The Bank of America Crochet Club: (top row, left to right) Erin Dexter, Rabia Hussain, Shirley De Silva, Kay Collignon, Danae Connolly, Courtney Ault, and Elline Emperado; and (bottom row, left to right) Denise Glasgow, Alma Guzman, Sheena Stewart, and Andrew Palacio.
— Photo by Richard Simon ©

The origins of crocheting come from as many directions as there are points on a compass; and cultures both ancient and modern, primitive and sophisticated, can claim artistry in some form of this single needle art.

And so can up to 25 employees of the Bank of America Financial Center in Fashion Island, who, at 2 p.m. every Friday, and with the corporation’s paid encouragement, gather in a conference room on the 10th floor of the corporate offices at 520 Newport Center Dr., to crochet hats, blankets, and scarves for the needy of Orange County.

Oh, yes, and to share the social buzz so often discussed at knitting bees everywhere.

“Bees,” historically, primarily consist of women, although Andrew Palacio, a sales support associate for the bank, coincidentally joined the B-of-A Crochet Club on the day of the interview.

“Every time I walked by, they were having the best of times, and I felt I was missing out,” he said.

He quickly learned that crocheting was not as easy as painting by numbers, but he also quickly learned that everybody there was supportive, instructive, encouraging and reminiscing of their first, finger-clumsy days with yarn and needle. He also happily appreciates that he’s the only guy in the room.

B-of-A Crochet Club spokesperson Danae Connolly, one of the first members of the group.
— Photo by Richard Simon ©

According to group spokesperson Danae Connolly, a business banking sales support associate, most people in the group aren’t experts at the art.

“Virtually every member is a novice,” she said.

Although one would never know it by the stacks of colorful and intricately woven products on display in the conference room that are ready to be gifted to the Orange County Rescue Mission. Since their beginning in February 2018, the B-of-A crochet crowd has also provided 50 blankets to “Knots of Love,” for babies in neonatal intensive care; and 48 scarves to “Operation Gratitude,” whose members assemble care packages for the military.

Among the craftspersons, the only acknowledged expert is Erin Dexter of the private banking department, who said that, thanks to her grandma, she’s been crocheting since the third grade, although she was ambiguous about the specific number of years.

“Let’s just say I’ve been crocheting for 30 years, and that my hair is naturally blonde,” she joked, eliciting chuckles from the bee members.

The Crochet Club meets for one hour every Friday, and it’s apparent that their creations don’t just materialize in those 60 minutes. Connolly said that most of the members take their hobby home with them, then devote selfless hours to crocheting. Dexter can turn out a hat in two hours — without looking — while the other members admit that it normally takes them up to eight hours to complete theirs, and they don’t take their eyes off needle and yarn.

The latest collection of blankets, beanies and scarves, ready for delivery to Orange County Rescue Mission.
— Photo by Richard Simon ©

The champion, in terms of dedicated hours, is Kay Collignon of global transaction services, who says she crochets a minimum of 50 hours per week. That doesn’t include time spent shopping and buying the rainbow of yarns out of her own B-of-A savings account. The club also receives donations from co-workers, who are impressed with the purpose of these needle aficionados.

Connolly said the group “has been through 350 skeins of yarn.” She explained that it takes about one skein per beanie, two for a scarf, and four or five per blanket, depending on the length and thickness of the yarn. There can be between 250 to 300 yards of yarn per skein. For a visual, one skein can stretch the length of three football fields.

Learning to crochet also has its humorous moments.

Connolly recalled that on more than one occasion, novices’ inaugural beanies, though admirably crocheted, could comfortably fit on the heads of very large animals. Obviously, size matters.

The crochet club creates more than just wool product; it has brought together employees from different departments and buildings who normally would not have gotten to know one another. It has helped many to unwind at the end of an intense week of work. And the club has an impact. Besides providing blankets, et al, for the needy, one of the club’s colleague’s newborn triplets were placed in intensive care and received cozy blankets crocheted by her co-workers.

Bank employees receive two hours of paid leave every week to volunteer with local charities. In 2018, Bank of America’s Orange County employees volunteered more than 59,000 hours to help support local nonprofits

To most in the boating community of Newport Beach, “knots” equates to speed through water. The Bank of America Crochet Club is expanding that definition.

 

Contact the writer at [email protected]

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