By: Shilo Urban
When Chena Rodriguez lost her oldest son, Xavier, at the age of 16, she was left with not only the grief of losing a child, but also the financial burdens that come along with it. Unable to afford funeral costs, Rodriguez had to keep her son in a freezer for five days before she could come up with the money to properly bury him.
After experiencing this, Rodriguez decided to start Xavier’s Legacy Organization to help raise funds for grieving families who need assistance with funeral costs. Starting off with small raffles in local venues, it now has 152 local sponsorships from local businesses, which include Northside Home Funeral, APS Construction and Lady M Cake Boutique. The XLO has also aided over 20 families since starting on July 1, 2017.
“I think I do it because I don’t want my son’s death to go in vain,” Rodriguez said. “I think that he would have been very proud of us, and it would have been something that he would have liked and be very honored to have his name behind, because he was that type of child, and he was very giving and very lovable.”
Within their first seven months, XLO was also able to cover 85 percent of the costs for one of its client’s funeral. While a full-service funeral can cost anywhere from $6,000 to $9,000, XLO covers up to $500 and helps in the preparation of any funeral arrangements.
“That’s where a lot of our contacts and vendors come into play,” Rodriguez says. “They will donate items at a higher expense — a casket, a marker, things of that nature — so that the family can try to save as much money as possible.”
Recently, XLO was able to raise enough money to buy a cemetery marker for a family who had lost a family member over a year ago. During the past year, the grave was only marked by a number, but through the help of local sponsorships and donations, XLO provided a small marker.
The organization also created XLO Attic, an event where they repurpose furniture and resell at events to raise money.
“The last event we did in October, we raffled a chair that we reupholstered in a Cowboy’s theme, and we raffled it out; the chair brought in $480, and that was given to a family,” Rodriguez says.
Another challenge facing Rodriguez after the loss of her son was getting back to work. Due to her grief, she was unable to work and eventually was laid off. Besides helping pay for funeral costs, such as headstones and viewings, XLO also offers emotional support for families and help with adjusting back to life. Currently, Rodriguez is getting her degree in psychology from Argosy University so that she can one day offer grief counseling through XLO.
Officially founded in July of 2017, Rodriguez serves as the president of the organization along with her son, Jose, who is CEO. The rest of the executive board includes Maria Atkinson as treasurer and Tiffany Salinas, the active marketing director in charge of social media.
Currently, the XLO is looking for a sponsor to donate a commercial space so that XLO can officially become a nonprofit organization and receive government funding and larger sponsors.
“We need to have one good sponsorship that can create at least a six-month lease to cover the overhead to be able to finalize our nonprofit,” Rodriguez says. “That’s where we’re standing now.”
To donate, become a sponsor, or check out events, go to xavierslegacyorg.com
By: Shilo Urban