Social entrepreneurs compete for cash in SVP Tampa Bay Fast Pitch 2020

As an occupational therapy assistant, Kelli Casto sees first-hand the struggles many Florida seniors face with obtaining financial assistance, coping without critical medical items they can't afford, and too much isolation and distance from loved ones.
To illustrate, Casto shares the story of Elizabeth who had suffered a stroke and was left paralyzed on one side of her body. The result meant she was unable to shower or bathe herself for eight months. All she needed was a special chair to shower safely, but she was unable to afford one.
Elizabeth’s insurance denied coverage of the chair, and she was turned down for assistance by other local nonprofits. After months of searching, she reached out to Saving Our Seniors and Casto who delivered the shower chair she needed to her within one day.
“You might think that’s just a shower chair,” says Casto. “But that shower chair provided her the ability to bathe again. It gave her confidence, independence, and a better quality of life.”

Elizabeth's story told by Casto became the winning pitch last week during the SVP Tampa Bay Fast Pitch 2020 competition, now in its third year.

The event held this year at Tampa Theatre consisted of three-minute quick-fire presentations from seven local social entrepreneurs working in the nonprofit space. In their Shark Tank-like pitches, participants share their journey, mission, vision, and model for social and environmental impact. The ultimate goal of the program is to help fund innovative organizations to ensure longer-term success and to help them receive more funding and support from the greater community.
Following the pitches, a panel of four judges assessed the nonprofits’ social enterprise plans by asking the presenters questions pertinent to deciding the winner.

And the winner is ... 
Saving Our Seniors, the grand prize winner of Fast Pitch 2020, was awarded $15,000. The presenter, Casto, founded the nonprofit in 2016. Saving Our Seniors fills the gap between Medicare and seniors suffering from financial limitations. The organization provides medical equipment, incontinent supplies, and other necessary items to seniors who are living below the poverty line.

Casto has personally delivered 20,000 pieces of medical equipment to more than 3,000 seniors while working a full-time job.
According to Casto, 60 percent of seniors need some type of assistance, and 40 percent live at or below the poverty line. Prior to the competition, Casto was able to reach five counties (Pinellas, Manatee, Pasco, Sarasota, and Hillsborough). Now that Saving Our Seniors has been awarded funding, more and more seniors will benefit from her organization. She also hopes to transition into leading Saving Our Seniors full-time.

Strong competitors

The six other competitors were: Feeding Tampa Bay, Preserve the ‘Burg, The Little Saint Nick Foundation, Ready for Life, Inc. to Inc., and LiFT Academy.

Feeding Tampa Bay is ending hunger for families, children, and seniors across 10 counties. Part of the national Feeding America network, Feeding Tampa Bay provides food to thousands of food-insecure families in West Central Florida.

Founded in 1977, Preserve the ‘Burg advocates for the coastal city of St. Pete and works to uphold its uniqueness. Through walking and bike tours, lectures, parties, and discussions, the organization educates residents and visitors about the cultural and architectural history of the city and celebrates what makes St. Pete special.
The Little Saint Nick Foundation’s mission is “kids inspiring and helping kids.” The foundation helps hospitalized children cope with their pain, fear, and isolation through entertainment, education, and other activities.
A solutions-based organization based in Pinellas County, Ready for Life aids foster kids ages 15 to 25 as they transition into society by teaching homelessness prevention, education, employment services, and lifeline support networks. The nonprofit provides a family environment where young people can go to find basic needs like meal kits, personal and hygiene supplies, support, and access to laundry and shower facilities.

Inc. to Inc. is a faith- and character-based prep program that provides aspiring incarcerated entrepreneurs and ex-offenders with resources needed to launch a socially impactful startup after prison. Through “entresition” services, the program’s goal is for its participants to become productive and committed employees, business owners, and community members.

Feeding Tampa Bay was the runner-up and was awarded $10,000, Preserve the 'Burg won $7,500 as third place, and LiFt University won the audience choice at $5,000. Previous participant, WellBuilt Bikes, won the alumni award of $5,000.

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Read more articles by Allison Koehler.

Allison Koehler is a Cleveland-area native who now lives in Tampa by way of Detroit. She resides in Seminole Heights with her partner, Phil, and three children -- one human and two cats. When she isn't writing, she's watching pro football, listening to music, or streaming Netflix and Amazon Prime.