Noemi Davis hopped on the power wheelchair as soon as Kelli Casto dropped it off Wednesday night.

“I feel like I have a sports car!” the 56-year-old exclaimed as she swerved around the gravel in the front yard of her Town ’N Country home.

Davis has difficulty getting around after a fall five years ago. She’s wanted a wheelchair for a long time. This one, provided by Saving Our Seniors at a low cost, is “beautiful,” she said.

“I didn’t think it was going to be so pretty,” she told Casto.

Now Davis can cruise to the Walmart across the street from her house. She can join her husband on the city bus when he runs errands. She has freedom.

A new wheelchair would have cost Davis about $1,000, said Casto, founder of the nonprofit Saving Our Seniors. Instead, Davis will pay $17.25 a month for a year for a used one.

Casto began the nonprofit in 2016. In her work as an occupational therapist, she saw a lot of seniors forced to go without medical equipment that would help them maintain their independence.

Noemi Davis takes a ride on her newly delivered motorized scooter by the nonprofit Saving Our Seniors at her home on Wednesday in Tampa. Davis has difficulty getting around after an accident left her with limited mobility. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

Medical equipment can be expensive, she said, adding that other service providers in the area have long waiting lists. Casto said she receives an average of 45 calls a day from seniors who are struggling to receive necessary medical equipment.

“Even if they make $1,500 a month, sometimes it all goes to medical equipment,” Casto said.

To date, she’s delivered more than 3,000 pieces of equipment to 1,500 seniors in Pinellas, Hillsborough, Pasco, Manatee and Sarasota counties, she said. She’s also tacked on meal deliveries provided by Feeding Tampa Bay since the coronavirus pandemic began.

Most of her equipment is donated after people die or no longer need it, Casto said. Her most requested items are shower chairs, powered wheelchairs, walkers, hospital beds and incontinence supplies. If she doesn’t have a piece of equipment, she tries to purchase it.

As the population of Tampa Bay has aged, the need for affordable medical equipment has grown, said Maribeth Braden, director of Neighborly Adult Day Centers in Palm Harbor and Largo.

“We hear it all the time,” she said. “They’re stuck at home. They don’t have the means to go out and get it. Or it’s too expensive, and they don’t have the insurance.”

Since March, Casto has had fewer occupational therapy appointments, so she also works at a doctor’s office in Manatee County.

The minivan she used for deliveries broke down a couple of weeks ago, so she has to break down the wheelchairs and cram packs of adult diapers into the backseat of her Chevy Cruz. One day, Casto said, she would like to have enough funding and donations to deliver the equipment full-time at no cost to seniors.

In addition to donated equipment, Casto’s nonprofit receives cash donations and grants, she said. While senior centers and medical care centers refer clients to her, most of her calls come via word of mouth.

The Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas sometimes sends clients to Saving Our Seniors, said executive director Ann Marie Winter.

“Nobody wants to admit that they need a walker or a wheelchair,” Winter said. “It’s usually a really critical situation when people request it.”

In addition, Medicare does not cover incontinent supplies, she said.

For now, Casto is a one-woman operation. She fits in the deliveries after work and on weekends. She makes 25 to 30 every week.

On Wednesday, Davis’ was her only delivery of the night. After a long day at work, she was tired.

But there was Davis, tooling around her yard, beaming.

“Instead of waiting for Ubers, I can take the bus to the doctor on my own,” Davis said. “It’s just going to be great. I’m going to be out.”

Casto smiled.

Noemi Davis poses for a photo with Kelli Casto who is the founder of nonprofit organization Saving Our Seniors and personally delivered the new motorized scooter to Davis’ home on Wednesday in Tampa. [ LUIS SANTANA | Times ]

To donate or request equipment, Tampa Bay residents can call 727-537-6753 or visit savingourseniors.org.

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