By Boyce Thompson. As you could probably tell by the cover of the magazine, Bob Strudler, the CEO of Lennar, is the grand winner of this year's Hearthstone-Builder Lifetime Public Service Award. This is the fourth year that we've run this program, and during that time we've raised nearly $2 million that goes to charities supported by the builders who win awards.

Each year, the program exceeds our expectations. Contributions from the manufacturers, services companies, and builders who support our program grow every year. At last month's International Builders' Show, we presented awards to Bob Strudler and Lee Wetherington at a dinner attended by more than 500 people. (Click here to read the story about their exploits).

As always, the award recipients talked about what other builders could be doing to foster a spirit of giving both for themselves and their company. Builders have never had more convenient options for giving.

Two come immediately to mind. Habitat for Humanity now sports affiliates in every state, many of them started by builders. And HomeAid America, a relative newcomer, has built or renovated more than 75 shelters for the temporarily homeless, with 34 more in development. The organization has 19 chapters in eight states.

Several of our award winners used their considerable expertise and wealth to establish their own charities. They assist people with special needs, build one-of-a-kind treatment centers, or even do missionary work overseas. Others support traditional charities, which run the gamut from the March of Dimes, to the Boy Scouts of America, to the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

Each year at the awards ceremony, our winners give advice to builders who would follow in their footsteps:

Do your homework. Figure out the broad range of charitable endeavors before you make a commitment. Network through your HBA and other benefactors in your community. After you figure out which organizations are truly worthy of support, ask yourself--or your company--what you'd really like to do.

Start small. Learn how things operate and how much time you can devote before diving in all the way. You don't need to be the biggest donor right away.

Use your expertise. The great thing about being a builder is that you have a talent that's in high demand from charities. Every organization needs to get something built--and you have the special skills to do it.

Involve your company. Many executives ask employees which organizations they'd like to support. Allowing people on your payroll to work on charity projects can be expensive. But it can also help create a culture where associates care more about each other.

Try to make a difference. You have the ability to make a big difference. You can leverage relationships with subs and suppliers to get a lot done. After you've gained experience, it makes sense to try to accomplish something that wouldn't otherwise happen without your involvement.

Don't forget your self-interest. Don't think first of the positive publicity that you can receive from charitable activity. But if there's a way to make it happen, that can be a very good thing. Newspapers love to report stories about people helping other people.

Finally, if you or your company are involved in any kind of charitable activity, please let us know. The nominations for next year's award are open. Contact Loretta Williams, at 202-736-3455, to receive a nomination form.

Boyce Thompson

Editor in Chief