A few weeks ago, I was asked by the Boys & Girls Clubs of America to be a judge for this year's National Service Project Awards. The theme for this year's project is "Be Great. Be Green." Now, that's right up my alley!

The idea behind this year's contest is for each Boys and Girls "Torch Club" to complete a green service project for their community that not only addresses a need, but also educates community members about preserving our environment. So it's all about teaching kids to be more eco-friendly and conscientious about protecting our natural resources ... AND it's about teaching other folks how to do the same.  

I was happy to be a judge, and I have to say that I was blown away by the quality of projects that were submitted. Reading through these projects really reaffirmed my faith in the creativity and ingenuity of the next generation. With each one, I found myself thinking, "How can I do a project like this in my town?" So I thank each and every group that participated for all of the great ideas and inspiration.  

Now, without further ado, here are the top five finalists as selected by the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the contest's sponsor, Staples Foundation For Learning.

Boys & Girls Clubs of Emerald Valley – Eugene, Ore.
BEE Great – Pollinate

Boys & Girls Club of the Town of Wallkill & Pine Bush – Circleville, N.Y.
Butterfly Garden

BGC of Southwest Washington – Vancouver, Wash.
Operation Birdhouse

BGC of Vineland – Vineland, N.J.
Project GROW Community Garden

Boys & Girls Club of Marin and Southern Sonoma Counties – Petaluma, Calif.
Think Green

Along with my fellow judges — Jim Caulfield, senior vice president, Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Rajeev Kapur, founder of Greenwala; and Joy Errico, director of community relations for Staples — I was able to cast my vote for my favorite project (and no, I'm not telling who I voted for.) Now it's time for you to have your say.  

From now until April 15, you can read more about each project and cast your vote for a favorite at www.staples.com/sfflserviceaward. The winner will be announced on April 19.

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