LARGO, Fla. -- A Tampa Bay organization is making a big difference in a unique way. 'Heavendropt' in Largo transforms military parachutes into jewelry, neckties, pet bandanas and other unique products. Then, they use portions of their profits to support disabled veterans and employ both veterans and people with disabilities.
The Largo organization is celebrating their 5th year in business and began when CEO Susan Buchholtz visited MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and found out that the U.S. military is forced to destroy its parachutes after a certain number of drops. She knew there had to be a better way to put the parachutes to good use and came up with the idea for Heavendropt.
Robby Groover, a US Army Veteran, and Heavendropt director of sales, development, and innovation says the Largo nonprofit is doing so well that they are in the process of expanding to a second warehouse, having just acquired an additional 1,000 parachutes. “This will help us pave the way to hire more veterans,” Groover explained.
Heavendropt gets their used parachutes from military bases across the US.
“It’s not just a fabric but these parachutes tell a story,” Groover explained.
Inside the non-profit's Largo warehouse, the parachutes are stacked up from the floor to the ceiling. Each one has a small handwritten jump log.
“This one says 2003. The first people to jump in Iraq was 2003. This parachute may have played a role in history,” Groover added.
Gregory Hall, who is also employed by Heavendropt, says it touches his heart every time he works on a project with one of the parachutes.
“It’s really cool to be able to step back and say that’s really strapping from a parachute. My fellow brothers that I fought with used these,” Hall added.
Robby Groover and Gregory Hall served together in the army in Afghanistan. Back on United States soil, they struggled to find purpose….until now.
“It’s almost like continuing a mission,” Hall said with a smile. "Without a doubt, it has changed my life."
“Being able to be in this environment post-military and be able to still make a difference. It means everything," Groover added.