Robby Groover has had an impressive military career. After nine years in the army, which included deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan, he was wounded in combat and awarded a Purple Heart. And while this may have ended his service in the Army, it didn’t stop his desire to continue serving others.
After Robby left the military in 2014, he decided to start a non-profit to aid veterans. He established the Pinellas Veterans Commission to help reintegrate and rehabilitate vets. While serving on a mayor’s task force on homeless veterans, Robby was introduced to an organization with a mission that really resonated with him – HEAVENDROPt, a program that provides jobs abilities by repurposing used military parachutes.
HEAVENDROPt was launched on Sept. 11, 2013 as part of Evergreen Life Services, an organ- ization that provides services and support to persons with intellectual and developmental disabil- ities. HEAVENDROPt purchases retired military parachutes from government liquidation and hires individuals with disabilities to repurpose them into handcrafted items such as jewelry, bookmarks, ornaments, purses, ties and even pet bandanas which are sold through their website or at local craft fairs. The products are made at the Louise Graham Regeneration Center in St. Petersburg, and all proceeds from sales go toward purchasing materials and paying workers a living wage. HEAVENDROPt also donates directly and indirectly to veteran groups like the Special Operation Warrior Foundation, Gary Sinise Foundation, Paws for Patriots, and Remember • Honor • Support.
It was at an event sponsored by the Armed Forces History Museum in 2016 where Robby first heard about HEAVENDROPt. “As a disabled vet, I look to focus my energy on organizations that provide exceptional opportunities for disabled persons and veterans with disabilities,” he says. “I saw HEAVENDROPt as an opportunity to fulfill a purpose and continue to strengthen the support for the people we serve. I fell in love with their organization, their mission, and their products.” He now serves as the organization’s director of sales, development and innovation where he is working to place HEAVENDROPt’s products in retail chains and bring them to the attention of local vendors.
Robby has witnessed firsthand the positive effect HEAVENDROPt has had on many lives. In one case, a young man with autism had to leave his job at a warehouse because he was frightened by people who yelled. When he first came to HEAVENDROPt, he kept his head down and hardly spoke. The manager asked him if he could sew, and he said no. But after only a half hour of instruction, he was able to sew even better than the manager. He has since progressed to product design. He is now friendly and out-going, someone who has found his niche and is able to earn a salary and enjoy his work.
Robby believes that HEAVENDROPt offers something more than meaningful employment and unique products. “Each repurposed parachute holds someone’s military story,” he says. “The parachutes are then given to people with disabilities who put their stories and their passion into everything they make. So visit our website, check out our items, and make a purchase or a donation. It will go to a great cause.”
For more information, go to www.heavendropt.org.