Mike and Cecil Williams

2002 John Muir Conservation Award Winners

An "Insider's Look
By Ranger Cheryl Abel

Mike and Cecil Williams - 2002 Recipients of John Muir Conservation Award

Earlier this year, JMMA Board Member Carol Tretten approached me with a request regarding a nominee for the annual John Muir Conservation Award. People had mentioned Mike and Cecil Williams for a few years, but the board really didn't have much information about the couple. Carol asked if I could help since I had "inside" information and sources. You see, I also work part-time at Wild Birds Unlimited, the store owned by the Williams.

When I approached people with questions about Mike and Cecil and informed them of the award nomination, they were all truly excited. They all felt that Mike and Cecil were very deserving of the award. The hard part would be to come up with a complete list of all the things the Williams had done over the years to promote nature and conservation because they do things for the community with very little fanfare or promotion. With the help of many people, I was able to come up with a good list showing why Mike and Cecil Williams are deserving of the 2002 John Muir Conservation Award.

Mike Williams had worked a full career as a stock broker/financial advisor when he decided to open a franchise of Wild Birds Unlimited in Pleasant Hill in 1991. Reportedly, he couldn't find a birdhouse he liked and thought there might be a niche for that kind of business in our area. He and Cecil have been "bringing people and nature together" ever since.

A major goal of the Williams's has been to encourage people to set up backyard wildlife habitats. They started a "birdscaping" program at the store, where an expert from the store would make housecalls to interested individuals to help them set up their yards with feeders and plants to create habitats for wildlife. This very successful program is now being copied by other Wild Birds Unlimited franchises. Mike and Cecil also encourage people to certify their backyard habitats with the National Wildlife Federation.

Mike and Cecil are long-time members of the Mt. Diablo Audubon Society. In the past, Mike has been the Membership Chairperson and is currently the Vice President. Cecil has been the Education Chairperson for many years, where she has promoted Audubon Adventures, an environmental educational packet for local school classes.

Educating others about birds is very important to Mike and Cecil. For children's education they: offer a Jr. Naturalist program at the store (another franchise first, now in use at other stores) gave advice and helped set up a bird feeding station at the Martinez Jr. High where 8th grade science students must complete a major bird project (many of these students now go on birdwalks on Mt. Wanda as part of the project) convinced some high school biology teachers that bird feeding/watching could fit their curriculum (after initial "groans", families discover it is a fun project they can do together) Cecil travels to classrooms to do programs on birds cub scouts take field trips to the store to learn about birds For adult education they: are both generous with their time by speaking to just about any group about birds and bird feeding-they show slides, bring feeders along, etc. offer bird classes and walks sponsored by the store Cecil works with nursing homes to help set up feeding stations

Over the years Mike and Cecil have helped many local conservation organizations and individuals with both mentoring and monetary support. Some of these include Mt. Diablo Audubon, Lindsay Museum, Native Bird Connection, Bob Wisecarver (our local bat expert), Gary Bogue, Muir Heritage Land Trust, and Save Mt. Diablo.

Mike and Cecil Williams are very passionate about birds and are genuinely enthusiastic about sharing that passion with others. They are very generous with their time and knowledge with the East Bay Community and are very deserving of the 2002 John Muir Conservation Award.

Exerpted from The View From John Muir's Window, April, 2002, Newsletter of the John Muir Memorial Association

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