Local real estate agent honored for efforts to help Native Americans

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By Stephanie DeCamp

It was just a regular Tuesday sales meeting at Re/Max Alliance of Evergreen — until 7News walked through the door and proclaimed a hero.

That hero is real estate agent Kate Mondragon, who for 15 years has taken an ever-growing load of food to the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Waving one hand over her chest and using the other to wipe away tears, Mondragon received the "Everyday Hero" plaque from newscaster Mitch Jelniker as her co-workers clapped and cheered.

Touched, Mondragon repeated over and over how others were more deserving, and that all she did was send out a memo once a year. But, according to her co-workers, it's much more than that.

The friend who set up the surprise, Jennifer Trinco, said Mondragon’s charitable efforts aren’t the kind seen everyday.

"I had no idea of the need until I met her," Trinco said. "She just put a face to it, and now I know specific people that we can help. It makes it all more real."

Mondragon turned and said to Trinco, "You brat!"

From a few boxes to 3,000 pounds

What started out as a small carload of food at Thanksgiving time has evolved into a trailer packed with 2,000 to 3,000 pounds of food, clothes and other goods. Mondragon delivers the boxes of food herself, door to door.

Two other groups have been instrumental in donating to the cause, she said: the Daughters of the American Revolution, "who have given half of the food for four or five years," and the Caring Association for Native Americans, which supplies a food bank, clothes and resources for those in need.

“They do so much for the reservations,” she said, “it would be a crime not to thank them.”

Shante-Wasti Wia

Mondragon became a part of the Lakota Sioux tribe after she sold a house to a couple in Parker and met Margaret Lankton, who adopted her as a sister in a Lakota tradition called "Hunka."

From then on, Mondragon was known as “Shante-Wasti Wia” (pronounced Shantee-Wastee Wee-ya), which means "Good-hearted Woman." Later, Mondragon adopted a Lakota son, Marty, who also works with the poor and downtrodden.

"If I see a bunch of kids and a grandmother outside,” she said, “I just stop and ask them if they need anything.”

"People think they get lots of money from the casinos," she said, "but it doesn't trickle down at all. … My niece only gets $350 a month, and that's to live on."

Mondragon recounted the time she took a box of food to an elderly woman who was so surprised she began to cry, saying, "I can't believe people remembered us."

"It's just one day a year," Mondragon said, "but most people don't know what real poverty is."

Mondragon's Hometown Heroes segment will air on Channel 7 news on these dates:

• Sunday, Nov. 24, at 10 p.m.

• Monday, Nov. 25, at 5 a.m.

• Thursday, Nov. 28, at 11 a.m.

• Saturday, Nov. 30, at 5 p.m.

• Sunday, Dec. 1, at 7 a.m.

It’s also available at www.denverchannel.com; click on the “News” tab and then on "7Everyday Hero."