For more than three decades Hillsborough County has helped neighborhoods organize, stage events, and otherwise enhance their communities through the Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program.

The Board of County Commissioners launched the program in 1988. Since then the County has awarded grants for neighborhood signs, leadership development, print and digital communications, safety and emergency preparedness, and projects promoting recreation, the environment, health, and fitness.

The 19 neighborhood groups receiving grants in 2021 used them to erect bat houses for mosquito control, digitize a community newsletter, and replace thirsty vegetation with xeriscaping, among other worthy projects. Innovation and creativity were encouraged.

Applications for next year’s grants will be accepted this fall.

The Lakewood Ridge Townhomes Association used a 2021 grant to build a neighborhood dog park. It took volunteers a couple of weeks to clear land for the dog park, erect fencing, and install lighting, a bench, dog waste stations, signs, and a trash can.

Many Lakewood Ridge Townhomes residents own at least one dog. A place where pets exercise and their owners chat is a great addition to the Brandon neighborhood. “We considered the growing multitude of dogs in the community, the opportunity to gracefully promote responsible dog ownership and waste cleanup, and more opportunities for dog owners and their neighbors to socialize,” says association President John Gunther. “This fit perfectly with our desire to rekindle our community bond.”

Strawberries

A resident of Lakewood Ridge Townhomes and her dog enjoy the neighborhood’s new dog park.

River Hills Homeowner’s Association is building 10 fitness and exercise stations along a 5-kilometer trail comprised of woodsy paths and suburban sidewalks that winds through the Valrico neighborhood.

Trail advocates already were talking about installing pull-up bars or other exercise equipment. A River Hills resident heard about the Neighborhood Mini-Grants Program and told the team that maintains the trail. The Association applied for and received a grant which enabled it to buy a professionally manufactured set of stations with signage.

Resident volunteers, including high school students completing service hours for Bright Futures scholarships, are installing the exercise stations.

Each of the 19 neighborhoods receiving grants was awarded up to $5,000 for its project. Grant recipients must provide reports and photographs documenting the successful completion of their work.

A major purpose of the mini-grants is to bring neighbors together and foster community pride. The program is administered through the Customer Service & Support department’s Neighborhood Relations┬áteam.

Top photo: River Hills residents install an exercise station along the 5-kilometer trail that winds through their Valrico neighborhood.