Ellen DeGeneres Presents $50K Gift to Heroic Chicago Pro

February 8, 2019

A Chicago real estate agent who rallied her community to book dozens of hotel rooms for more than 100 homeless people during last week’s polar vortex received a $50,000 donation from Walmart, which was presented to her on Wednesday’s episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show.”

Candice Payne of 5th Group Realty & Management, who was invited to the show to speak about her heroic efforts, told DeGeneres that she was moved to act partially because her boyfriend was once homeless. Some of the people she helped would have been in grave danger without housing during the cold snap. “We had pregnant women, we had children, we had disabled people just out of the hospital,” Payne said.

Actual temperatures in Chicago plunged below those of Antarctica last week, reaching a record-breaking -20 degrees. The wind chill—an even deadlier component—fell as low as -60.

Payne said she started by paying for 30 rooms at a local hotel with her credit card, along with emergency supplies from Walmart. Seeking assistance to transport the homeless to the hotel, she posted a call to action on social media. Payne’s post went viral, sparking a wave of support from others who donated to her cause and helped transport, house, and feed the homeless. With the added support, Payne was able to book 72 rooms for five nights and get 122 people off the streets, she said.

During Wednesday’s show, DeGeneres first presented Payne with a $25,000 check from Walmart. But as the show continued and Payne shared her story, DeGeneres introduced another surprise: The retail giant decided to throw in another $25,000, bringing the total to $50,000.

Payne told DeGeneres that helping the homeless is her newfound passion, adding that she plans to use the money to fund her own nonprofit to provide temporary and permanent housing for the homeless.