For many years, Performance Designs has been designing and manufacturing parachute canopies for the sport and military communities, employing just shy of 200 folks in Volusia County. But in late March, when the coronavirus concerns arose, PD closed its production facility on International Speedway Boulevard across from the DeLand airport.

For two weeks, the owner and management team worked furiously to figure out how to open the facility again, and to do so with appropriate health and safety measures, said Albert Berchtold, the company’s marketing manager.

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PROTECTING FIREFIGHTERS — Albert Berchtold, left, and Karl Meyer, right, both from Performance Designs, deliver face masks to the DeLand Fire Department’s Lt. Pete Letourneau, center left, and Firefighter Ray Griffin.

Soon the company reopened, primarily for the manufacturing of Defense Industrial Base products but with many new health and safety guidelines in place. The workstations of people who sew were separated, common areas were closed, and face masks were made mandatory. Constant cleaning in the factory continues, in addition to other changes in the “new normal” work environment, Berchtold said.

And while the parachute-making resumed, PD built one mask for each person who worked in the factory, then made them a second, a third and so on. That way, employees wouldn’t have to wear the same one every day and could wash them, Berchtold said.

And that led to another idea.

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“We had some employees who saw the need and had the desire to donate masks to our local community. With our reduced staff, we found ourselves reaching out to partner with another company to meet the demand for masks,” Berchtold said. “We didn't just want to sell them, but wanted to be able to use our sales network to donate to those in need in our local community.”

So Performance Designs decided that for every mask sold, it would donate one. PD teamed up with Orlando-based apparel company Threadbird to make face masks. The goal is to support local manufacturing as well as to provide masks to first responders and health care professionals.

In just over two weeks, more than 400 masks had been donated — and PD anticipates many more donations in the coming weeks.

“Performance Designs is part of the skydiving community, and we’re also part of the local community as well. The opportunity to bring those two communities together in this endeavor has been great,” Berchtold said. “Every little bit helps, and we want to do our part.”

Performance Designs has been able to tap into the worldwide market with mask sales. Recently, it had shipments of masks going across the U.S., as well as to Great Britain, France, Belgium, Sweden, Switzerland and the Netherlands.

The sold masks are being made by Threadbird, but the ones being made at the PD factory are being donated to local organizations.

“With our reduced staff, we just haven’t had the capacity to meet the demand for external sales,” Berchtold said.

So far, mask donations have been provided to AdventHealth Foundation’s DeLand hospital, the DeLand Police Department and the DeLand Fire Department, as well as local assisted living facilities.