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Collaborative efforts taking root in Sulphur Springs

Rebuilding Together Tampa Bay recently helped spearhead a collaborative effort among nonprofits that service the Sulphur Springs area. Photo by Samuel Johnson
Published Sep. 4, 2015

SULPHUR SPRINGS — A little over a year ago, Calvin and Tamica Clifton moved their family of five into the Sulphur Springs area.

When they were approached about the project Building a Healthier Sulphur Springs, a coalition of nonprofits and businesses, they were happy and eager to participate.

Last week, the Cliftons and nine other homeowners who chose to participate received home improvements like yard clean up, general neighborhood beautification, exterior painting, new mailboxes, home safety needs and tips for growing fresh fruits and vegetables.

The Cliftons haven't had the opportunity to socialize with their neighbors, but they are keenly aware of the reputation Sulphur Springs has, citing violence and drug activity as two primary concerns.

The fact that they have three daughters —a 5- and 2-year-olds and a 2-month-old — made the choice for safety a no brainer.

Not only are they installing a healthy home kit, including antislip bathmats, fire extinguisher, carbon monoxide detector and child-proofing kit, they are also mounting cameras on the exterior of their home.

Curt McKay has a dual role as pastor of the Abundant Life Worship Center and as executive director of the Sulphur Springs Neighborhood of Promise, which culls the talents and input of residents, educators, the business community, faith-based leadership, governmental agencies and other nonprofits.

McKay helped spearhead the door-to-door solicitation of participants. He is adamant that Building a Healthier Sulphur Springs will facilitate several benefits, including creating community interaction, generating civic pride and spurring safety and security.

McKay is confident that when neighbors work together on a common purpose they are more likely to keep an eye on the residents they have gotten to know a little better. He says he doesn't have any statistics, but by going through the neighborhood it became apparent that the residents really don't know one another.

"It's not a snitching culture when you emotionally invested in those around you," McKay said.

Rebuilding Tampa Bay Together, another nonprofit, coordinated the Building a Healthier Sulphur Springs effort, forging an alliance between nonprofit groups already active in the community and affiliated with Sulphur Springs Neighborhood of Promise. Allegany Franciscan Ministries assisted with a series of grants

The group hopes to make over 175 homes over the next two years. Ultimately, they want to use the lessons learned in Sulphur Springs as a blueprint for future projects around the Tampa-Hillsborough County area.

Tom Damico of Keep Tampa Bay Beautiful, another participating nonprofit, said given Sulphur Springs' historic and geographic value, nestling along the Hillsborough River, the area is too important not to invest in revitalization for the long haul.

Contact Samuel Johnson at hillsnews@tampabay.com.

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