Editor's note: Due to a preempted broadcast on May 20, this story was only seen in some parts of the country. If you missed it and want to watch, click here.
Salt water is their passion. They say it runs in their veins in the place of blood.
Mark Maksimowicz, his sister Janice Whitmore and their cousins Jeff and Vince Albanese are Floridians with a love for the water that is their life-long neighbor. And they are as intent on saving it as if it's their own. That means removing trash that pollutes the shores -- in some places discreetly, in others, almost completely.
Trash floats in the mangroves on Florida's coastline.
They launched the non-profit group, GREEN ARMADA, and have committed themselves to the hot, dirty work of cleaning up a decades-old problem - one Styrofoam cup, one bottle, one syringe, at a time."We have a very simple mission: waters free of debris," says Jeff Albanese. "Everybody can agree that trash doesn't belong in the waters."
The Green Armada does the hot and dirty work of picking up trash that has accumulated over decades.
They quit their jobs, pooled their private funds, bought a 24-foot cargo boat and set out on a different life course. (Vince kept his job in order to help support Green Armada). "The reason we're out here at all is it's all been about action, instead of just talking about it, " says Vince Albanese. Dressed in knee-high rubber boots and wide brimmed hats, they have collected 30 TONS of trash in just seven months. Volunteers are coming aboard, and already the group has gained the attention of corporate sponsors and government officials, like St Petersburg mayor Rick Baker. "It's a great thing for the city. I'm going to do what I can to help them," he says. Mayor Baker does so by waiving the dumping fee for the trash, and the docking fee for their boat, the MISS MIA.
Bottles, plastics and furniture are just some of the items that litter Florida's coastal waters.
Named after Mark Maksimowicz's 6-year-old daughter Mia who suffers from spina bifida, the vessel is but a beginning to a life devoted to making the world a better place. And Maksimowicz, for one, gets his inspiration from Mia. "She's the toughest little environmentalist you ever met. She struggles with every step, but she will bend down and pick up a piece of paper."
NBC correspondent Mark Potter will tell you more about Green Armada on Sunday's broadcast of Weekend Nightly News.