by Kiana Leveritte, WIldlife Sanctuary Program Intern
Margaret Stephen, affectionately known as Maggie by those close to her, has been a wonderful helping hand with the sanctuary program as a certifier for the past four years. She was drawn to the idea of property owners finding new and inventive ways to change their gardens and landscapes to fit their personal style while keeping the environment in mind. Since being a certifier, Margaret has completed more than 16 visits, four of which resulted in sanctuary certifications. Giving homeowners their official Atlanta Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary signs is the part of the job she enjoys the most. This also inspires her to further encourage those who are still on their way to being certified. Maggie has been there to lend a helping hand in more ways than one when it comes to promoting the program to prospective sanctuary owners, including volunteering at a number of tabled events to provide information. Her help is always appreciated.
In addition to being a certifier, Maggie has also been a member of the Georgia Native Plant Society (GNPS) for more than 10 years. She loves plants. The lady’s slipper is her favorite because of its rarity and ephemeral beauty. She is also a master birder. Like most bird lovers, Maggie does not have a particular favorite, but instead takes the time to appreciate all the species around her and their existence. Always enjoying challenging herself since retiring from four careers, Margaret Stephen finds the time to volunteer in her community on a regular basis as a way to give back. A great example is her work with the Chattahoochee Nature Center (CNC). She lends a hand in their Unity Garden (and has since its inception), where they propagate both rare and commercial plants. Maggie can also be found assisting with plant rescues and plant sales.
Maggie offers this tidbit of advice to certifiers: “ The most important thing is to enjoy it and like interacting with people. Don't be intimidated by the criteria—that will come. Education is an important part of saying ’no’. There is often a gap between a pristine lot with birds, feeders, nursery plants, and a beautiful lawn and the need for native plants—plus the elimination of invasives. The key is to help them understand why it is important to provide a true sanctuary and outline the steps they can take to make it happen.” The Atlanta Audubon Wildlife Sanctuary Program is grateful to Margaret Stephen for all that she does for the program not only as a certifier, but also as an inspiration to future certifiers.