On the second Tuesday of every month, our local builders association, Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Cape Cod—HB&RACC for short, (sort of)—holds its monthly dinner meeting. I've been an associate member of the group now for five or six years. I joined the group figuring it would be a great place to meet and cultivate new clients for my architectural photography business. But after signing up, I discovered one of the most dynamic and energetic groups of like-minded business people I'd ever encountered—and they all worked in construction or construction-related fields—perfect!

OK, I confess to being a serial networker—meaning basically that I like to smile a lot and talk at length about my business—and networking is a big part of this group's success (slide show). Almost immediately after joining the group, members approached me about doing work for them. But my guess is that most of the members tell a similar story. But in addition to generating income, I found our builders group to be full of talented individuals working for and with each other and sharing information freely and enthusiastically—perfect for me as a magazine editor.

Each meeting begins with networking and dinner, and then a speaker or speakers give an hour long presentation on some topic. This past meeting four different people talked about Cost Effective Green Materials for Everyday Construction Projects—a great presentation with lots of great information germane to building on Cape Cod. But my hands-down favorite presentation every year is "Ask the Inspector" where we bring in two or three inspectors from towns on the Cape to field questions in a no-holes-barred lively discussion.

Still there is much more to our chapter of the Builders Association than dinners and schmoozing. We take a very active role in representing the building industry at the state legislative hearings to make sure we have a voice in government decisions that are being made. The Association also promotes the education of its members offering continuing education courses to help members stay current with their licenses and with the constant changes that the building industry faces.

But perhaps the most amazing aspect of the group is their contribution to community. Members are always donating time and talents for local charities, usually for little or no recognition. A couple years back, four different building companies donated time and materials to build four kids' playhouses that were raffled off to support the local Housing Assistance Corporation. And last fall, we did our first Builders Blitz for Habitat for Humanity, where a house was built entirely by professionals from start to finish in five days. I photographed the event, and the turnout was uplifting. On one of the mornings, I counted over forty vehicles when I arrived on site. Representatives from every corner of the building community were there donating their time and talents. The selflessness of the group is awe inspiring and makes me proud to be a member.

I'm sure that our group is not an anomaly. There are builder groups all over the country that have this same level of involvement and commitment to maintaining excellence in the industry and service to the community. So if you're a builder, a subcontractor, you sell building products, or you provide a service to builders—and you are not a member of a local builders group—sign up today. If you don't have a local builders association, start one. The rewards you will glean will outweigh any energy and effort you put in tenfold.

Follow up: Right after I posted my blog about the baseboard covers, a reader pointed out that the heating element had been incorrectly installed with the fins 90 degrees off. A heating installer suggested rotating the fins, which I tried unsuccessfully.  But the heat has worked fine for a couple of decades, so I'll leave that change until the next renovation.

Next thing On My Plate: Two cool uses for an unsung and fun building material…