Lithia Ranch received a mini-grant from Hillsborough County to improve equestrian facilities and signage.

By Brad Stager

Residents who want to enhance the sense of community in their neighborhood can get financial support to do so thanks to Hillsborough County’s Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program.

Organizations such as homeowner associations, community development districts and civic associations can receive grants of up to $5,000 for projects that improve their neighborhood or create civic engagement among residents.

The grants can be used for a variety of projects, ranging from phone apps that keep neighbors informed to street festivals that entertain and delight residents while promoting community engagement. The deadline to apply for grants is 5 p.m. on Friday, December 4, which will be disbursed in 2021. Grants will be awarded the week of Monday, January 18, 2021.

One of the neighborhood organizations that has previously been awarded a grant is the Bloomingdale Homeowners Association. The HOA was awarded funds to support its Safety First! campaign, which included the purchase of safety items like goggles for its annual community cleanup. Bloomingdale Homeowners Association President Susan Watts said the county backs up its grant program with good advice as well.

“Our county’s neighborhood program has benefited us in numerous ways. Wanda Sloan and her staff answer questions or point us in the right direction,” said Watts, referring to Hillsborough County’s Office of Neighborhood Relations, adding that “the county holds annual neighborhood conferences where we meet county and community leaders.”

Other projects in the local area that received grants include support for the Lake St. Charles CDD’s development of a community information phone app and the Lithia Ranch HOA’s enhancements to its equestrian facilities and signage improvements.

One of the neighborhood liaisons assisting applicants is Stephanie Agliano. She said the goal of her office’s activities, such as providing mini-grants, is to improve the common habitability of the county by supporting local neighborhoods.

“At the end of the day, we all want to feel good about where we go home to,” she said.

Having a connection to the Office of Neighborhood Relations is essential to receiving a grant since applicants must be registered with the office as a civic association, homeowner association, special taxing district or neighborhood watch group. Assistance is available for groups wanting to create a formal neighborhood organization.

For more information about the mini-grants, including an informative application training video, visit the Hillsborough County Office of Neighborhood Relations online at hillsboroughcounty.org or call 272-5860.