Actress Pauley Perrette hands out cash to unsung community heroes in need

It was a well-deserved celebration of unsung community heroes with a little help from a beloved Hollywood actress Pauley Perrette.

FOX 11 anchor Elex Michaelson was there for the heartwarming surprise.

"Are you surprised?" Elex asked.

"Yes," said Sylvia Lopez, one of the recipients. "I never expected this."

Jessie Hunley, another recipient, had no idea she was in on the surprise.

"No one was thinking about me," Hunley told Elex.

The NCIS star handed cash to families in need in the wake of the pandemic and the holiday season. Elex and Perrette have worked together for years on various charity projects.

This year, Perrette reached out to Elex after she grew frustrated with lawmakers' inability to agree on a second stimulus package.

"Philanthropy and giving is more contagious than a virus," Perrette said.

Jessie has worked for the Special Needs Network for over a decade. This year, he was diagnosed with lymphoma and the bills have piled up.

Because of the medical expenses, Jessie had no money left to buy presents for his grandchildren.

Then Pauley came to the rescue!

"Thanks to Pauley... we've got $3,000 in cash," Elex told Jessie, as he handed the money to the family on behalf of Perrette.

Sylvia, a mom of four, was among the recipients of the surprise. Three of Sylvia's kids are on the autism spectrum and one of her children lives in a group home and the family hasn't been able to visit him because of COVID-19 restrictions.

"It's been a very rough year," Sylvia said.

Recently, Sylvia and the rest of her family caught coronavirus and were hospitalized for about a week. Last year, Sylvia's husband hurt himself on the job and hasn't been able to work.

In comes Perrette, as the Hollywood actress presented the deserving family $3,000.

Sylvia's first instinct? Pay it forward.

"I hope Pauley doesn't mind," Sylvia told Elex on-camera. "I'm going to give it back to my community. I'm going to help out."

Areva Martin, the founder of the Special Needs Network and a former guest of The Issue Is, was the lady that introduced Elex to Sylvia's family.

Areva, knowing Sylvia's giving nature, had to tell Sylvia the money was hers to keep when Elex presented the mom of four the cash on behalf of Perrette.

"She deserves this more than anyone I know," Areva said. "People like Sylvia, they give so much. They are not accustomed to giving back."

Areva told Sylvia, "This is for you!"

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