Gardens of plenty win Acorn Awards

On July 26, three properties in Oakdale received Acorn Awards for their “superior appearance and dedication” to making the city an aesthetically pleasing place to live.

Oakdale City Council gave out awards in the residential, commercial and public categories. In addition to an Acorn Award winner sign placed in each yard, winners also received a $50 gift certificate to Gerten’s Greenhouse.

The Acorn Award program started in 1994. The winners of the 11th annual award included Jim and Debi Stroik in the residential category, Western Bank in the commercial category and House of Prayer Lutheran Church in the public category.

“We’re glad to get a chance to recognize and honor people for adding to the good appearance of Oakdale,” said Mayor Carmen Sarrack. “People are proud of their yards and their places.”


In 1987, Debi and Jim Stroik became the first people to move into the nook known as Hadley Meadows. When they did, it was like farmland, Debi said. An appreciation for that natural beauty helped the Stroiks win the Acorn Award this year.

“I just grow what I can grow, I like the yard to be natural,” Debi said. “I sculpt the trees into a design rather than cut them down.”

Amid the sculpting and planting and bird-watching - woodpeckers, cardinals and hummingbirds frequent the yard - Debi completely loses track of time.

“I’ll be out there till 12 o’clock at night - that’s nothing. My husband will ask, ‘Can you even see out there?’” Debi remembered with a laugh.

For all the long hours in the yard, Debi has a consistent companion: her 9-year-old York Terrier, Peanut.

“Peanut is my gardening dog.”

Debi’s twin 5-year-old grandsons, Gage and Gaven, also lent a hand. Or, more accurately, a foot.

They made stepping-stones with their footprints in wet cement, which Debi decorated with seashells from Florida.

The Stroiks are glad when walkers slow down to take in their yard on the corner of Hale and Hadley. Being recognized with the Acorn Award is an extra bonus.

“It’s quite a compliment, I’m very flattered,” Debi said, humbly suggesting there are other more deserving yards.

Mayor Sarrack feels the Stroiks were the perfect choice.

“They’ve really done a lot to improve the property and yet keep it natural,” Sarrack said. “I’m not a botanist expert, but their yard just looks so beautiful to the eye.”


When the folks at Western Bank moved to 1155 Hadley Ave. N. two years ago, they were honored to be added to the list of businesses on one of Oakdale’s finest streets. Now, after a secret nomination, they are being honored for adding to the avenue.

“It was a very nice surprise,” said branch manager Michele Willard. “We had no idea we were even nominated until we won.”

The Oakdale Economic Development Committee makes the decision each year, voting on the list of nominees. The EDC noticed Western Bank last year, and confidently chose them this year, said Dan Hartman, assistant city administrator.

“We really enjoy this location,” Willard said. “So it’s nice to be acknowledged that we’re enhancing Hadley.”

The award has special meaning because Western Bank was the first bank in Oakdale, 19 years ago, Willard said.

“Plus we get a lot of compliments on the building and the landscaping,” he added. “People seem to like what we’re doing.”

Willard points out they get help with the lawn.

“Early Bird Landscaping takes care of the lawn. We need to thank them - they do a great job.”

As the Acorn Award proves, the yard, landscaping and building at Western Bank all look great.

“They did an excellent job when they built that building and put the landscaping in,” Sarrack said. “It really looks nice.”


House of Prayer Lutheran Church is a small church with a lot of color, said Pastor Phil Walen.

“We were able to put some real color into the area, with flowers and some new trees, plantings all around,” Walen said.

That color helped the church at 6039 North 40th St. win the Acorn Award for its first time.

“We were happy that they honored us with the award,” Walen said. “We were delighted really, that we were recognized in the community.”

House of Prayer Lutheran Church has been a part of the community since 1968, when it was first built. There was a substantial addition in 1998, and the last four years have seen new parking lots built on the south and east side of the building.

Landscaping work has been done all around the church, with gorgeous new gardens on the north side drawing the most attention.

“It’s our people who are volunteering and are so gracious with their time who made this possible,” Walen said. “What we’re really doing is dressing up the corner a little, making this a welcoming place and being a good neighbor.”

“The whole property there has been improved so much over the years,” Sarrack said. “The landscaping to the north of the building is really nice, plus they put in the new parking lot and cleaned everything up - they did a great job.”

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