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The foursome behind the Green Armada qualify as Reader's Digest Everyday Heroes.
Published Jul. 24, 2007

As far as the founders of the Green Armada are concerned, they're just regular folks committed to maintaining nature's pristine state, but their work cleaning up area waterways has brought them national recognition.

The St. Petersburg nonprofit joins the likes of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani in being featured as Everyday Heroes by Reader's Digest.

The monthly feature often focuses on an individual or small group of people who manage to pull things together when disaster strikes. The Green Armada will be a step away from the usual fare of selfless rescuers who have braved burning cars or gunmen to save lives on the spur of the moment.

A family effort

Instead, the piece will focus on Mark Maksimowicz, his sister Janice Whitmore and their cousins, Vince and Jeff Albanese, the founding members of the Green Armada, which is committed to cleaning up Tampa Bay's coastline.

"We keep telling everybody and ourselves, 'Don't let it go to your head. We're just garbage men on the water,' " Maksimowicz said about their efforts.

Except for Vince Albanese, the founders left their jobs to start the nonprofit group. Vince Albanese kept working and supplied the initial money that got the ball rolling, including purchasing the boat they use to collect garbage.

Editors impressed

Jody Rohlena, senior staff editor of Reader's Digest, said the monetary loss and risk the Green Armada group took in quitting their jobs impressed the magazine's editors.

"There are different ways to be a hero. We always feature people who do something to help other people and there's always a risk," Rohlena said. "This really jumped out as something relevant with the issue of pollution."

The edition of Reader's Digest with the local heroes' story will be in stores Tuesday, but some subscribers have already received it.

"Already people who subscribe to it are calling and offering donations and asking how they can help," Maksimowicz said.