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Co-founder of Senior Transport Services dies

The death of Lakewood Ranch's Don Deibert has left the nonprofit in dire need of volunteer drivers.

Bill Kaser and Don Deibert started the Senior Transport Services nonprofit to provide transportation for seniors. Lakewood Ranch's Deibert died May 15.
Bill Kaser and Don Deibert started the Senior Transport Services nonprofit to provide transportation for seniors. Lakewood Ranch's Deibert died May 15.
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Esplanade's Don Deibert was certain seniors in the region were in dire need of timely and affordable transportation services.

He was so sure that when ITN Suncoast, which provided rides for seniors and those of any age who are vision impaired, folded in December 2021, he decided to start his own nonprofit with Tara accountant Bill Kaser.

Deibert was right about the need.

Senior Transport Services, which provided eight rides in its first month of March 2022, was giving 60 rides in October in Manatee and Sarasota counties. That number shot to 113 rides in November and 190 riders in December.

Every month since, Senior Transport Services has provided an average of 190 rides or more, except for the short month of February where it provided 178 rides.

With only four volunteer drivers, the nonprofit was stressed. Then Deibert became ill.

On May 15, Deibert died of kidney failure at 67, to the shock of Kaser and the nonprofits' clients.

Kaser said Deibert was experiencing pain in his legs that caused him to stop his duties as a volunteer driver. However, Kaser was certain his partner would recuperate and get back to driving.

"I didn't expect it at all," Kaser said. "The Tuesday before, I told him it was hard to believe he wasn't the strapping young man he was before. He chuckled."

One Senior Transport Services client told Kaser that "Don (Deibert) is a gem who was sent from heaven."

A memorial service was held May 20 at Peace Presbyterian Church in Lakewood Ranch.

Now Kaser is trying to continue a service that Deibert thought was so vital.

"Don was a good complement to me," Kaser said of their running the nonprofit. "He always crossed the Ts and dotted the Is. But he also was one of our drivers. It bothers me to let our client service slip. We need to make a big push for more volunteer drivers."

He said the service is for people in the community 60 and over who either can't drive or who shouldn't be driving. It also is for those of any age who are vision impaired.

The service has a $2 pickup fee and costs $2.15 per mile. No tipping is allowed.

It is especially valuable for those who have medical appointments and they want to reserve a ride in advance with the confidence that they will get to their appointment on time.

Kaser said those who volunteer will embark on a rewarding journey.

"You are helping people in the community and you are building relationships," he said. "The riders are so grateful."

Although some people might have found Deibert to be grumpy, Kaser said it was mostly related to his mannerisms.

"When he joined ITN Suncoast, he came off as being irascible," Kaser said. "But he really wasn't that way. He came off that way because of his demeanor. His heart was pure and he was a genuine, good person."

Kaser said he will concentrate for the time being on finding volunteer drivers. He won't worry, at this point, about replacing Deibert's duties in terms of helping to run the nonprofit.

"It was been stressful," Kaser said. "One of the things Don did was run our general phone line."

Deibert, who was active at Peace Presbyterian, was a New Jersey native who has lived in Lakewood Ranch since 2013. He had been a lifetime volunteer for people in need.

"Folks have this need," Deibert said in August. "I have seen it during my time driving (as a volunteer). In this area, we have a large senior population. People need to get to dialysis, to the doctor, to grocery shopping. They have had a horrible time finding reliable service."

For more information or to volunteer as a driver, call 888-295-2376.



Jay Heater

Jay Heater is the managing editor of the East County Observer. Overall, he has been in the business more than 41 years, 26 spent at the Contra Costa Times in the San Francisco Bay area as a sportswriter covering college football and basketball, boxing and horse racing.

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