The residents of Valrico's Buckhorn Grove community will receive a new ADA compliant play center this month thanks to a mini-grant from Hillsborough County. Applications for the 2020 grants are accepted between now and Friday, August 30.

Valrico area residents have the opportunity to improve their communities next year thanks to money from Hillsborough County. Applications can now be submitted for Hillsborough County’s 2020 Neighborhood Mini-Grants, which offer groups and homeowners associations (HOAs) the chance to apply for up to $5,000 to fund community projects.

According to Wanda Sloan with Hillsborough County’s Office of Neighborhood Relations, mini-grants can be put towards a wide variety of projects such as neighborhood celebrations, children’s programs, community gardens, signs and landscaping, crime watch programs, safety equipment, websites, newsletters and leadership training.

“Neighborhood, civic, homeowner and crime watch associations in Hillsborough County that are registered with the Office of Neighborhood Relations are eligible to apply,” said Sloan.

The Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners established the mini-grant program in 1988, but this is the first year that grants will be awarded up to $5,000, double the amount available previously.

Daniel Estep, president of Valrico’s Buckhorn Groves HOA, applied for a grant last year to install an ADA compliant play center.

“Our community is now 15 plus years old and we are seeing a wave of younger and growing families moving in with young children,” said Estep. “But we have no feature for the youngest residents.”

Buckhorn Groves, which is located adjacent to Mulrennan Middle School on Pearson Rd., has been applying for mini-grants intermittently since 2010 with the HOA board seeking resident input for necessary projects.

“We maintain it as an annual topic in board discussion each year and survey our community through social media to gain feedback on the process,” said Estep. “It has always been a pleasure to work with the members of the county. There is not a doubt in my mind that the program wouldn’t be what it is, if not for the passion of the staff behind the grant and the services they provide.”

Before applying for a grant, group representatives must attend a training class either in person or online. The training reviews the application, grant criteria and projects that qualify for the mini-grants. A verification code received at the completion of the training must be included on the application in order for the proposal to be considered.

A training class is scheduled to take place on Tuesday, August 6 at 6:30 p.m. at the Bloomingdale Regional Library. Successful grant recipients will be notified in late fall.

Applications must be received by 5 p.m. on Friday, August 30.

To register for a class or to learn more about the grant process, visit and click on the “Neighborhood Grants” link or call the Office of Neighborhood Relations at 272-5860.

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Assignment Editor Kate Quesada started working at the Osprey Observer in 2004 after graduating from the University of South Florida with a masters degree in Mass Communications. Since then, she has held various positions at the paper and has been working as the assignment editor since January 2020. She lives in Lithia with her husband Mike and sons Dylan and Max and stays active in the community on school PTA boards and volunteering with local organizations.