HEAVENDROPt was formed because Evergreen Life Services, our parent nonprofit organization, was searching for ways to provide additional employment and employment training opportunities to individuals we serve and to bring awareness to our mission.
HEAVENDROPt is a perfect fit since it helps the people served to have meaningful employment. Seeing the workers smiling faces, sense of accomplishment and increased self-esteem brightens every day!
The added bonus of HEAVENDROPt is that we are recycling retired parachutes that were actually used by various branches of the US military and support veterans organizations.
How was HEAVENDROPt started?
HEAVENDROPt was conceived during a visit to MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida. Evergreen CEO, Sue Buchholtz was invited to the base by John Stross, founder of Remember Honor Support, a nonprofit that supports veterans.
During the visit to MacDill AFB, Sue was shown the careful examination of used parachutes prior to them being cleared for use by the military for additional jumps. Sue saw the potential to develop products from the parachutes that could not be used again. Sue’s vision was to develop a social enterprise that included employing people with disabilities, giving back to veteran organizations and recycling. This started the development of a business plan and process to make this vision a reality.
HEAVENDROPt would not exist with out that visit to MacDill AFB where John introduced Sue to the parachutes at MacDill. Even though Sue is considered the founder of HEAVENDROPT, John was instrumental in its startup, and stood by our side throughout the process and implementation. HEAVENDROPt was also founded with strong backing from business professionals who serve on the Advisory Board of the social enterprise, Doug Towne and Nancy Giles, who were key to strategizing and building the business plan and operations, Corey Shadd for the attention to marketing and social media and Bill Sadka, an Executive Director of one of Evergreen Life Services’ divisions who saw the vision and has taken over the operations of the inventory of raw products and the design center.
John Stross and his fiance, Jo Anne Brower, founded Remember Honor Support in 2012 with the idea of developing an ongoing annual memorial event on 9-11 of every year. The organization has raised over $340,000 for veterans organizations like the Special Operations Warrior Foundation, Paws for Patriots and the Gold Shield Foundation. Sadly, John Stross passed away in 2014.
We honor the memory of John Stross by donating 5% of our net sales of our cause bracelets to Remember Honor Support.
Is HEAVENDROPt a nonprofit?
HEAVENDROPt is a part of Evergreen Life Services and is a 501c3 nonprofit. Funds are used to pay a competitive wage to people with disabilities who make the products. Our goal is to supply meaningful work to all. Of course, all product raw materials must be purchased continually to keep everyone working. A large expense is our purchase of the retired military parachutes from Government Liquidation and we continue to seek a better rate to help us have more net profit to employ more people and be able to give more back to veteran organizations.
What kinds of disabilities do your workers have?
While we prefer to accent our workers’ awesome abilities, the people making HEAVENDROPt products have many different types of challenges. Our workers’ include people with developmental and intellectual disabilities, sight and hearing impairments, veterans with all types of disabilities (visible and invisible) and veterans with disabilities and their family members. Each group and individual has so much to offer in the process of making our products. Working with them and finding ways to spotlight their abilities and uncover new talents is a wonderful initiative.
Where are HEAVENDROPt products made?
Currently products are made in Texas, Louisiana and Florida. Products are made at either our parent organization, Evergreen Life Service’s facilities, or at our non-profit partner facilities. We are also exploring contracts with various nonprofits employing people with disabilities in Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and Oklahoma. As we sell more products we are able to employ more workers with disabilities.
This video will give you a glimpse of how HEAVENDROPt products are made at one of our our partner facilities, Louise Graham Regeneration Center, in St Petersburg, FL. The Louise Graham Regeneration Center, a 501(c)(3) not –for-profit organization, provides employment for developmentally disabled adults through the recycling and sale of paper products.
How does HEAVENDROPt get used parachutes?
We became an approved vendor with a government liquidation company that sells military items that can no longer be used by the military.
The items are auctioned online at various time and often are bundled with additional items we do not need. Because we need the parachute material, we must bid sight unseen on the package bundle.
If we win the bid, we have limited time to remove the parachutes from the military base. We are required to cut all of the parachute cords on the parachutes that we buy while we are on the military base, so that the parachutes cannot be used because of the liability. Once we have someone prepare the parachutes according to military regulations, then we arrange to transport the parachutes and cords (and whatever else is included in the bundle) to our offices in Haughton, LA.
How does HEAVENDROPt decide what products to make?
We are constantly exploring and testing new designs in the Northwest Louisiana Design Center. Much of the consideration in a product design is the ability of the workforce to make products at a high quality level. This may take some training and testing. We also take into consideration how marketable the items are. Sometimes you’ll find these new products at an exhibit event. If the exhibit attendees like the item and it sells well, then we consider adding the item to our HEAVENDROPt line of products
How much are the workers paid?
We do time studies to determine a competitive wage based on the amount of a certain product a person can make each day. With our workforce, we want to set a reasonable goal based on ability of our workers.
We pay a set amount based on each item. We divide the production steps into sections so that there is a work opportunity for everyone who wants to work. We plan to keep our wages competitive since employment is a large part of our mission.
How does HEAVENDROPt support the military?
We buy the parachutes so the military makes money on their discarded chutes.
We employ veterans with disabilities and work with veteran volunteers.
We donate to veterans organizations such as Special Operation Warrior Foundation,
Gary Sinise Foundation, Remember Honor Support and others.
The military parachutes are a large portion of our costs to make a product. We are trying to find a way to cut or stabilize those high costs. This includes working with government officials to consider the cost of these items to nonprofit organizations. If the costs are reduced we plan to hire more veterans and give more to veterans organizations.
Our main mission remains focused on continued employment for our amazing workers with disabilities.