Though bodegas have been longstanding cornerstones of NYC communities, their importance was never more clear than during the global pandemic.

While big retailers struggled to keep their shelves stocked at times throughout the crisis, many of these smaller business became a lifeline for their respective neighborhoods, as its owners and employees risked their safety to provide food and household essentials.

As a sign of appreciation for the proprietors' commitment, Pepsi teamed up with Desus Nice and The Kid Mero to gift cash to bodega owners across all NYC boroughs. The first recipient was Juan Valerio, who owns and operates JJN Corp Deli and Grocery in the Bronx. A newly released short film, titled The Bodega Giveback, highlights Valerio's story and how he continued to run JJN Corp throughout the pandemic, despite losing his father back in April. 

"It's something very powerful to lose what you love the most in a split second," Valerio says in the film. "Life goes on, and I decided to come back because he always taught me to work. Staying closed was disrespectful to him."

The video then shows Desus and Mero arriving at the bodega to surprise Valerio with a cash gift that will cover his rent throughout 2021.

"Bodegas are the lifeblood of the neighborhood and are central to the culture of New York. We’re children of immigrants – Juan’s story is our story – so we’re excited to work with Pepsi to be able to pay it forward and help him like he has done for so many," Desus and Mero say in the the film. 

Not only is Pepsi showing gratitude to bodega owners, they're also surprising patrons with $100 pre-paid credits to encourage more local shopping throughout the holiday season. The company will began distributing the cards across NYC boroughs on Friday and will conclude Dec. 20.

"Pepsi has so many longstanding bodega partners in New York City – they are not only pillars of the community, but they have gone above and beyond to take care of their loyal customers during the hardships of the COVID-19 pandemic," said Umi Patel, CMO of North Division, PepsiCo Beverages North America. "They have worked around the clock to stay open, filling shelves to ensure their customers, friends, and family have the essentials they need to stay home and stay safe. They have even shifted their businesses to meet the needs of the community, offering new delivery options, adding crucial items like masks and gloves and more, all while dealing with their own personal challenges of the pandemic. We are proud to do our part in giving back to these unsung heroes."

You can check out the The Bodega Giveback above.

Catch the talk show and podast duo tonight on Desus & Mero Explain 2020 at ComplexLand, too. The event will take place at 9 p.m. ET and will be hosted by Complex's Donnie Kwak.