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Greatest Generation Reaches Out

A group of senior citizens in Monroe County called the Greatest Generation Reaches Out fights poverty, not war.
Dave Testa runs a program called "We've Got Your Backpack." Once a week, volunteers deliver backpacks filled with food and books, to children at School 54 in Rochester. One its biggest champions is Shirley Jones. "She stuck her hand out and said 'my name is Shirley Jones and I want to help,' and she has!" says Testa.

Last February, the 88-year-old firebrand decided to mobilize her peers to make a difference in the lives of people less fortunate.
"I thought, 'oh man, that's a huge group but I'm only one person, what can i do?'" says Jones. "Then I thought, 'no I'm not, I'm a member of the Greatest Generation, according to Tom Brokaw!" The result is a group in Monroe County called the "Greatest Generation Reaches Out." One chapter is run out of the Perinton Senior Center. Members do everything from knitting hats and mittens to holding food drives. Charity is their mission. Generosity is their message. "My generation grew up giving," says Jones. "We lived in the depression, World War II. It's part of our childhood to help others."

"The backpack program is one Shirley brought to us, and then we just took off with it," says Kim Zeck, Senior Citizen Program Supervisor at Perinton Senior Center. "The seniors have been supporting it every week."

"We're reaching about 60 youngsters at one city school and we wouldn't be able to do that without the help of people like Shirley," Testa says.

"I feel a part of everything now," says Jones. "I never gave such a great Christmas present, and on and on. And it's been fun for me to get to know all these people, great people." Shirley's group has contributed to food pantries, emergency shelters, and schools. The need is great, and the Greatest Generation is ready to answer the call.

For more information on the Greatest Generation Reaches Out, email

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