Categories: Thrive

One-woman nonprofit operation wins $15,000 grand prize at SVP Fast Pitch

For Kelli Casto, there’s no such thing as work-life balance. Casto works full-time as an occupational therapy assistant, and in her free time she single-handedly runs Saving Our Seniors.

Casto founded the nonprofit Saving Our Seniors in 2016 to provide medical equipment, incontinence supplies and other necessary items to seniors living at or below the poverty line. Since its founding, Casto has personally delivered 20,000 pieces of medical equipment to seniors in need, and helped more than 3,000 seniors in Pinellas, Manatee, Pasco, Sarasota and Hillsborough counties.

Thursday night, Casto’s hard work paid off when she was voted the $15,000 Grand Prize Winner of Social Venture Partners (SVP) Tampa Bay’s Fast Pitch competition. Feeding Tampa Bay came in second place, garnering a $10,000 prize; Preserve the ‘Burg came in third with a $7,500 prize; and LiFT University won the audience choice, with a prize of $5,000. Previous participant, WellBuilt Bikes, won the alumni award of $5,000.

According to Casto, the money will go directly toward servicing more seniors in Tampa Bay, and hopefully help her transition to Saving Our Seniors full-time.

During her pitch, Casto described her experience as an occupational therapy assistant, and how it has shaped her mission with Saving Our Seniors. She told of Elizabeth, who suffered from a stroke and was left paralyzed on one side of her body. She couldn’t step into a shower or bathe herself. Denied by her insurance, other local nonprofits, and living on less than $800/month, she couldn’t afford a shower chair that cost over $100. So she was left unable to bathe, not just for a day, or a week, but for eight months.

When she finally got in contact with Saving Our Seniors, Elizabeth received her shower chair the next day.

“You might think that’s just a shower chair,” said Casto. “But that shower chair provided her the ability to bathe again. It gave her confidence, independence and a better quality of life.”

Casto sat down with the St. Pete Catalyst earlier this month to talk about her work. Click play below for the full interview.

Casto founded Saving Our Seniors in 2016 in her one bedroom apartment. She began collecting gently used medical equipment and soon found that her apartment wasn’t large enough to hold it. She moved from a garage to a storage unit to a warehouse and continues to grow. Now, with such a large supply of medical equipment, Casto has launched an online thrift store to fund the operation.

What is Fast Pitch, you ask? Think Shark Tank with heart. Seven nonprofits pitch their mission, as well as their plans for a social enterprise, a model that combines the social mission of a nonprofit with the market-driven approach of a business venture. The nonprofits are given just three minutes to pitch, followed by a four-minute Q&A with judges. Then the panel of judges assesses the pitch, and selects winners.

The pitch is the culmination of a six-week intensive training and mentoring program devoted to developing their social enterprise, which is intended to help nonprofits increase independent revenue streams and reduce dependence on shrinking government and private grant funding. The pitch is an opportunity for the nonprofits to not just to perfect their message, but to raise the profile of their organization in the Tampa Bay community. As an added bonus, the organizations compete for unrestricted cash prizes – thanks to a fund within the Community Foundation of Tampa Bay – to use at their discretion.

This year’s participants were: Feeding Tampa Bay, Saving Our Seniors, Preserve the ‘Burg, The Little Saint Nick Foundation, Ready for Life, Inc to Inc and LiFT University.

Megan Holmes

Megan Holmes is managing editor of the St. Pete Catalyst. By day, Megan writes, project manages and practices untraining her oxford comma habit at the St. Pete Catalyst. By early morning and late night, she lives at CrossFit9 with a barbell in her hands. She believes that exercise is the greatest prescription for every ailment, but that a hot cup of coffee and a nice sour beer will do in a pinch. She loves all things local – so you might spot her trying out a new eatery, biking around this beautiful city, or walking her beloved Shiba Inu, Max.

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