MESA, AZ (Surprise Squad) -- Elly is a crossing guard at Mendoza Elementary School in Mesa. She spends her mornings watching out for the kids and keeping them safe. Her principal says Elly has a heart of gold. When the Surprise Squad heard Elly was in a rough spot financially, the team decided to pay her a visit.
"Elly is just an amazing employee," Deb Lynch, Mendoza's principal. said. "We've been so fortunate to have Elly work with us at Mendoza Elementary School for the past several years. She serves as our crossing guard, and she just does an amazing job taking care of the kids and keeping them safe."
Lynch said when she first met Elly, the crossing guard would give her a salute every morning. Initially, it made Lynch a little uncomfortable because she viewed Elly as her equal. But as she got to know Elly better, Lynch discovered that Elly had been in the military and that saluting somebody was seen as a sign of respect. "So after that, I started saluting her every morning when she came in," Lynch said with a smile.
"Do the kids all know Elly?" 3TV's April Warnecke asked.
"They do, they do," Lynch answered. "She's usually very super friendly with them and talks to them and has cute little stories that she comes and tells me after school every day. So, it's very fun. We love her dearly, and she's part of the Mendoza family."
But not all is well in Elly's life. Lynch shared that recently Elly's rent was going up by $150 every month, a cost she can't afford on her tight budget. Moving isn't an option either. Her current finances won't allow Elly to pack up and find a new home.
"She's not the kind of person who asks for anything," Lynch said. "But I could tell she was really sad for several weeks.
"I can't wait to surprise her," Warnecke said.
At the end of Elly's morning shift, the Surprise Squad called her over to the cameras.
"Elly, we're doing a story about what makes Mendoza Elementary School so special," Warnecke said. "Why do you think?"
"We have a great staff, a great principal, the district. It's the people that make it special," Elly answered.
"Tell me how you feel about the kids here."
"Oh, they're great," Elly said. Even though she was masked up, you could tell she was beaming. "They make my day. I just enjoy the kids. You can learn much from the children. I really enjoy them. I always try to wish them a happy day and take care and everything. And we're always here to support them too or help them in any way we can. It just has a special atmosphere, the whole school. You give, and then in return, someone will do the same thing for you. It's like kindness that goes around. And we need more of that today."
"Speaking of giving back," Warnecke said, "We've heard from a lot of people here that you're a big part of why this school is so special. I'm actually with the Arizona's Family Surprise Squad, and we heard that you've had some financially tough times lately. So we want to help you out with that."
"Oh, wow," Elly said.
Warnecke handed Elly an envelope on behalf of Valley Toyota Dealers and Arizona's Family Surprise Squad.
"Oh, God. Oh, my God," Elly said, visibly moved when she saw a certificate for $5,000 inside.
Lynch gave her a hug. "We love you, Elly; we love you."
"Thank you so much," Elly replied. "This will help out tremendously with medical bills and everything. God bless you. Thank you all so much for this. Thank you very much.
"You're very welcome," Warnecke replied. "God bless you, too."
Lynch later told Arizona's Family that Elly used some of that money to buy groceries for a neighbor who also is struggling to make ends meet.