Just ask Erin Pauley, one of the winners of this year's Monte Cristo awards.
The annual city of Everett pride award recognizes property owners who do an outstanding job of maintaining the outside of their homes and businesses.
"I'd like to get more people playing in the dirt," Pauley said. "There's nothing like getting your hands dirty and the feeling of excitement when the first little seedlings pop through the dirt."
Pauley, a self-employed mother of five daughters, has spent the past eight years transforming a 1907 cottage in the Northwest Neighborhood into a warm place to live. She trimmed the yard, planted beds of perennials, nailed windowboxes full of flowers to the house and built a white picket fence.
The house sits on a corner lot, so she fixed up the back yard, too, building a river rock wall by hand, and then a fence and a garden.
And she doesn't even own the place.
"I've done this to every place I've lived, even if it was a rental," she said.
Pauley finds work in the yard to be good therapy for her body and soul. She's suffered through cancer and a chronic condition that sometimes leaves her body stiff with pain.
She lives with her adult daughter, Natalie, who has Down syndrome, and her youngest daughter, Malaya, 11.
This is the 19th year the city has offered the awards. The idea was that instead of ticketing people for trash-littered yards and dilapidated homes, the city could also reward people for doing things right.
This year, a committee of citizen volunteers whittled down dozens of nominations based on how well owners had maintained buildings and landscapes.
The winners come from all neighborhoods in the city and fall into several categories, including Pride of the Neighborhood, Rejuvenation and Transformation, and Neighborhood-Friendly Business. Pauley won an award in the Pride of the Neighborhood category. See more photos of recent winners here.
Mayor Ray Stephanson and other city officials will recognize this year's winners in a ceremony tonight at the Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett.
The celebration starts with a 6:30 p.m. reception followed by the awards presentation at 7:15. The winners receive a plaque to display on the outside of their homes.
MONTE CRISTO AWARDS
Pride of the Neighborhood
- Bayside: Michael and Yvonne Odland
- Boulevard Bluffs: Carolyn Henri and Ronald Green; Johnell Capella
- Cascade View: Richard Johnson; Linh Tran, Quang Tran, Huong Khue; James Dede
- Delta: Sundie and Wayne Kombol; Aaron and Shayna Halverson
- Evergreen: Harpreet Sandhu
- Glacier View: William and Barbara O'Brien; Raul Sanchez-Figueroa, Cecilia Pulido and family; Job McCabe and Jean Deming
- Harborview/Seahurst/Glenhaven: Dr. Warren and Lil Cronkhite;
- Barbara Gidos
- Northwest: Vicki Howell; Diane Kieland; John and Lois Glover and Erin Pauley; Gregory and Barbara Lichneckert
- Pinehurst: Jack and Evelyn Kuehn
- Port Gardner: William and Cheryl Olsen
- Riverside: Roberta Goodwill; Jibril and Kimberly Rashid; Fred and Nancy Becher
- South Forest Park: Stephen Minor
- Twin Creeks: David and Kimberly Dean; Gail Bartlett
- Valley View/Sylvan Crest/Larimer Ridge: Greg and Linda Terry
- View Ridge Madison: Dale Pappas; Lloyd and Nellie Drake
- Westmont: George and Laura Dirtu
- Bayside: Derek and Hailey McIalwain
- Delta: Christopher and Meagan Semore
- Evergreen: John and Carol Williams; Steven French
- Harborview/Seahurst/Glenhaven: Cheryl and Rob Raymond
- Northwest: Keith and Claudia Collop; David and Pamela Sherman; Philip Palmer
- Pinehurst: Thomas and Peggy Bagley; Bret and Barbara Bowen; John Barr
- Port Gardner: Lorna Donadio; Shane and Sandra Jones
- Riverside: Kent and Nathan Bergsagel; John and Lidia Rubish; James McLeod
- Port Gardner: Linda Miller
- Bayside: Port Gardner Bay Winery, Chris and Linnea Covington
- Delta: Hawthorne Elementary, principal Janelle Phinney
- Riverside: Snohomish County PUD, general manager Steve Klein
- Twin Creeks: Panera Bread, general manager Bryan Lee
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