By LINDA CHION KENNEY
The annual Hillsborough County Neighborhood Mini-Grant program again seeks applications for projects aimed to strengthen neighborhood associations and the communities they serve.
Established in 1988, the mini-grant program is “focused on encouraging neighborhoods to invest in their future and create a legacy for years to come through innovative and creative community projects.”
The deadline to apply is 5 p.m., Friday, Dec. 17, 2021. The maximum grant per awardee is $5,000.
Eligible are civic and homeowner associations, special taxing districts and Neighborhood Watch programs registered in the Neighborhood Directory Listing with Hillsborough County Neighborhood Relations.
Projects that received 2021 Neighborhood Mini-Grant funding included the construction of a dog park, installation of fitness and exercise stations along a nature trail, erection of bat houses and the installation of a floating fountain to improve and increase a pond’s algae control and fish population.
The 2021 Neighborhood Mini-Grant awardees included six in the south county area: Lake St. Charles Community Development District and the Pavilion Property Owners Association in Riverview, Heron Park Villas Homeowner’s Association and the Sandhill Villas Homeowner’s Association in Lithia, Valencia Lakes Property Owners Association in Wimauma and the Osprey Landing of Ruskin Homeowner’s Association.
According to county officials, viable projects for the annual mini-grant program must demonstrate community support and involvement in all phases of the proposed initiative, from application through implementation.
Volunteerism is required and must be considered “a foundational component” of a project’s success, according to the county’s mini-grant informational video, which offers a series of tips for submitting strong applications.
Moreover, the projects “must address needs or improve the quality of life” in one of seven categories, including Neighborhood Identification, which involves “place-making” through “the creation or enhancement of assets that are a source of neighborhood pride and identity.”
“We are challenging our neighborhoods to think bigger than their backyards,” notes the county’s informational video. “If your project can leverage other community partners to obtain items our grant will not fund, go for it.”
Advance homework is recommended as well, particularly as it pertains to pre-submittal information, such as permits, estimates and quotes, as applicable.
Overall, “be creative,” the video further suggests. “Inspire our review committee. Let our grant categories encourage you to think about different and innovative ways you can create your community legacy and tell your neighborhood story.”
For the Neighborhood and Community Innovation category, officials are looking for “unique projects that bring neighbors together, solve a problem or celebrate neighborhoods.” The Health and Wellness Engagement category concerns projects that increase health education or “access to nutritious food, physical and mental fitness opportunities.”
Under the Environmental Enhancements category, the focus is on “protecting water and energy resources and native plants.” The Leadership Empowerment category entails training neighborhood leaders or teams and building skills “for neighborhood governance or action.” The Safety Opportunities and Education category involves knowledge and tools “to prevent, prepare for, confront or respond to incidences of crime or danger.”
Rounding out the seven mini-grant project categories is Emergency Preparedness, for projects that increase neighborhood resilience to natural disasters, such as hurricanes.
According to a review of the Neighborhood Relations Neighborhood Registry last year, there were 1,004 potential applicants, including the Apollo Beach Civic Association, Balm Civic Association, Belmont Homeowners Association, Cypress Creek Neighborhood Watch, Little Harbor Property Owners Association, Ruskin Community Development Foundation, Rivercrest Homeowners Association and Community Development District, Sun City Center Community Association, Summerfield Master Association, Townhomes of Summerfield Homeowners Association and the Wimauma Community Development Corporation.
Mini-grants are scheduled to be awarded Jan. 31, 2022. If selected, a Letter of Understanding must be signed before any project purchases take place. The deadline for submittal of the letter is 5 p.m., Friday, Feb. 11. Mid-term and final report deadlines, respectively, are 5 p.m., Friday, April 1, and 5 p.m., Friday, July 29.
For more, view the “2021 Neighborhood Mini-Grant Overview Video,” read the “2021 Neighborhood Mini-Grant Program Information Guide” and access the online application, including budget and volunteer worksheet templates and judging criteria, at HCFLGov.net/MiniGrant.