WHITMAN — Defense attorney Christopher DiOrio really does tend to his knitting — helping those in need through his church via a program that echoes his approach to practicing law.
DiOrio attends Love Alliance Church in Brockton where the pastor’s wife and a women’s group had seen churches in other communities wrapping scarves around utility poles, inviting those in need to use them for the past five years.
The program, called Wrapping Brockton in Love, is similar to the theme of a children’s book, “The Mitten Tree,” used by Whitman’s Duval Elementary School as the inspiration for an annual holiday giving program.
“Through social media, they were getting scarf deliveries from all over the state, from out of state,” DiOrio said of his church’s effort. “The note says [the items] are not lost, you’re not stealing, this is for you and, if you don’t need it yourself, take it anyway and find somebody who does.”
A couple of years ago, DiOrio picked up his knitting needles again and joined in the effort. He had also continued his needlepoint over the years.
While political work — he ran for the Whitman Board of Selectmen last year and served on the Finance Committee — limited how much he could do, DiOrio still kept up with the knitting.
He also had gastric surgery in the fall and had to find a way to slow down his eating. He would take a bite, knit for two or three minutes and then take another.
“It’s something that I have to do to take care of myself and the end result is it goes to help other folks,” he said of the scarves he’s been knitting for the church project.
He had done 40 scarves once before and set a goal of 50 to give away, finding it a bit remarkable how easy it came back to him.
He took up knitting after a high school football injury — and an alarmingly high blood pressure — at age 15
“I damaged my ACL and went to the hospital,” he recalled. “When they took my blood pressure it was 210/85, just obnoxiously high.”
Doctors thought the blood pressure was related to the trauma of the ligament injury, but after waiting a bit, it was still high and they didn’t want to resort to medication because he was so young.
A school nurse suggested a form of occupational therapy that 1960s L.A. Rams football player Roosevelt Greer was known for — handicraft. While Greer was a devotee of needlepoint, the nurse suggested both needlepoint and knitting for DiOrio.
He had been ordered by his doctor to check in with the nurse for a daily blood pressure check.
“She said, ‘You have too much going on in your life, with school with sports — all these other things. You need to have one thing in your life that will just calm you down for 20 minutes or 30 minutes that takes absolutely no mental energy whatsoever,’” DiOrio said.
He told his dad, who was an athletic trainer for the N.Y. Giants football team, what the nurse had prescribed and he mentioned Greer’s hobby.
“I can get a scarf a day done,” he said.
DiOrio already does a lot of his legal work at home to help care for his younger children, Peter, 3, and Amelia, 6 months. His older children, Isabella, 18, and Dominic, 17, live with their mom.
When the kids are napping or playing he knits.
He prefers big needles and bulky yarns for his scarves.
The project also complements his approach to his profession.
DiOrio has a law office in Hingham, but says most of the work gets done at home because family is more important.
He also gives back in his work through a program he calls Grace Law, which provides legal services such as divorces, landlord-tenant cases or other civil law work.
“It’s not just indigent people,” he said, noting that while about 86 percent of people involved in criminal cases are eligible for some kind of legal aid, civil procedures are not covered.
“In 79 percent of the civil cases, one of the parties is there without an attorney,” DiOrio said. “In 90 percent of landlord-tenant cases, the landlord has counsel, but the tenant does not. This is liberty, too. … If you can’t afford it, we’ll figure it out.”
His view is vocations are meant to serve the people who need it most, not just those who can pay.