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$1K awarded to elderly street cleaner mocked by neighbors

Mary Kena was nominated by her neighbor Victor Cano for the CASH FOR KINDNESS award.

Mary Kena used to work as a housekeeper at a local military hospital.

She felt a sense of pride keeping the facility spick and span for more than 20 years.

Now at age 76, Kena turned her passion for housekeeping into something similar on the very street where she lives.

"She's out here every day,”Victor Cano, her neighbor said. “Monday through Sunday."

Cano first met her even before he officially moved into his Northwest Side home on Park Bend.

“We were fixing up the house and she came over here with a box of chocolates and introduced herself,” Cano explained.

It didn't take long for his family to realize her kindhearted nature.

"Every day, I go to work and this lady is out here sweeping up the curbs, she's picking up the trash, she's pushing in trash cans when she doesn't even have to do it," Cano told Fox San Antonio’s Ryan Wolf.

But not everyone sees Kena’s back-breaking work in quite the same way.

"She was a ‘trash lady,’" Cano said about one of the nicknames people gave her who live on the street.

Cano turned to CASH FOR KINDNESS as a way to counter the negativity of those who dismiss her as also a "crazy old trash lady."

“It hurts me," he said.

Fox San Antonio helped set up a surprise meeting with his neighbor on the very street she loves so much.

“Oh my God!” Kena said when she saw the news camera. “What's going on? What did I do?"

Wolf introduced himself to the recipient who appeared quite confused.

“I’m Ryan with Fox San Antonio,” he said.

“Oh my goodness!” Kena said in response. “Nice to meet you. But what's the special occasion?"

Cano shared why he called Fox San Antonio.

"I called Ryan because of the stuff you do around here,” he said while choking up with tears.

“Oh mijito,” she said back while speaking in Spanish.

She leaned in for a hug and said “I do it because I love all you guys. And I'll continue to do as long as God gives me good health."

Cano couldn’t hide his emotions as tears rolled down his cheek. “I called Fox 29 because I want to teach people that you're not a 'trash lady,'” he told her. “You're not."

As they embraced once again, Wolf revealed her secret nomination on CASH FOR KINDNESS.

“We reward selfless acts of kindness," he told her.

He then handed her the biggest cash award ever presented on the weekly program.

Kena counted the money aloud as her family and others who live on the street gathered around.

“$100, $200, $300, $400, $500, $600, $700, $800, $900...$1000!" she said with her voice in a crescendo.

“And you deserve it,” Cano said. “Everything and more.”

“Oh my God!” she said while clutching the crisp one-hundred dollar bills in her hands. “I don't believe this. Oh my God! I don't believe this! I don't do this for money. I don't do what I do, be kind to people… there's not one person in the neighborhood who can't say that I didn't try to help them in one way or another. Money wise. Keeping the street clean. And I'm determined it's going to stay cleaned. Not just for today, but as long as God gives me strength and health, this street will be cleaned!"

It's a promise to herself and to the neighborhood.

“$1,000!” she repeated. “I was rewarded for being a good American citizen! If some of them don't like me, that's okay. I still love them and pray for them every single day."

Click here to nominate someone for the $1,000 CASH FOR KINDNESS prize

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