The story behind HEAVENDROPt
Stacked from floor to ceiling in our Largo, Florida warehouse are unique pieces of American history used to create one-of-a-kind masks, hammocks, pet bandanas, bracelets, key chains, tote bags and more—all made from authentic military parachutes. Have you ever wondered how HEAVENDROPt acquires all of those parachutes and how we got started using them to make our products?
As a third-party recycling facility for US military parachutes, HEAVENDROPt is home to 350,000 pounds of used parachutes from WWII, Korea, and Vietnam Wars. Each parachute weighs approximately 31 pounds, so it’s estimated that we have over 111,000 parachutes in our possession at any given time. That’s a lot of chutes, especially when you consider that each one represents at least one jump from a brave paratrooper who served our country.
The notion of HEAVENDROPt was conceived by Sue Buchholtz, CEO of Evergreen Life Services (ELS), a charitable, non-profit organization that provides a full range of professional services to people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Founded in the 1950s, today ELS proudly serves more than 1,100 individuals with disabilities in 8 states. Part of Evergreen’s mission is to help the people they serve increase their self-worth. One of the ways they accomplish this is by teaching them basic life and social skills, as well as job and financial training.
While visiting MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida several years ago Sue witnessed a multitude of parachutes being carefully inspected to see if they could continue to be used for their intended purpose after a certain number of drops. When she learned that many of them ended up being discarded and sent to landfills or incinerated, the innovative idea of upcycling them for another purpose went “airborne”.
Sue was inspired to find a way to preserve these historical keepsakes, while at the same time honoring the servicemen and women who had used them. So she arranged for Evergreen to acquire the parachutes, and the rest, much like the contents of our warehouse, is history.
Sue’s vision was to develop a social enterprise that included employing people with disabilities, giving back to veteran organizations, and recycling. This launched the development of a business plan and process to make this vision a reality. Sue’s goal was to repurpose the parachutes, while at the same time creating jobs for the people ELS serves as well as veterans.
The parachutes were first used to create dog bandannas, and a variety of products have evolved since then. Our newest product is a light-weight, waterproof hammock, and is one of HEAVENDROPTs bestselling items, along with our masks that have been in high demand due to COVID-19.
Just like HEAVENDROPt gives the parachutes new purpose, the work that goes into each of our one-of-a-kind, handmade items also gives our employees new purpose. HEAVENDROPt is honored to employ veterans and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, providing them with vocational job training, meaningful employment, increased confidence, friendship, and a strong sense of acceptance.
To learn more about our mission, view our amazing yet affordable products, and discover how we serve veterans and people with disabilities by providing vocational training through upcycling authentic military parachutes, visit heavendropt.org and evergreenls.org
Please join our mailing list to receive updates and learn about new products