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Anonymous donors step up to help pay the funeral expenses of Kansas City crime victims

Two women stand next to each other. The older woman on the right has her arms wrapped around a vivid painting that shows a young man standing in front of a car and making a had gesture.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Itati Becerra, left, stands with her mother Amapola Garcia who is hugging a painting of her son, 16-year-old Carlos Ambriz-Garcia, who was killed in front of his grandmother's home in December. Garcia is the first recipient of the KC Common Good Fund, which helps victims of violent crimes cover funeral expenses. The fund was announced at a press conference at the Linwood YMCA on Monday.

The nonprofit KC Common Good is offering grants to help the families of crime victims deal with the expense of funeral costs. The money comes from a $250,000 fund collected from anonymous donors.

Amapola Garcia’s son, Carlos, was 16 when he was shot and killed in Kansas City, Kansas — just three days before Christmas.

Carlos was on the steps of his grandmother’s porch near 27th and Parallel when four men in a black car drove by and shot him. Garcia found him after returning home with chicken nuggets.

“I flipped my son over, and I was doing CPR. I was holding his bullet wounds, I was blocking the blood,” Garcia says. “I was calling 911 on the phone at the same time. And I’m just like, ‘What’s going on?’”

Garcia says her family sold tamales, burritos and menudo to help pay for Carlos’ funeral. But she couldn’t afford a tombstone.

KC Common Good was quick to step in, helping to cover the costs using a community fund that has now accumulated $250,000 in anonymous donations.

KCCG announced on Tuesday that they will begin offering financial aid, in grants up to $5,000, to help cover funeral expenses in cases of violent death for families in the greater Kansas City area.

Victims of violent crimes can make their requests through KCCG’s referral partners, Ad Hoc Group Against Crime and KC Mothers in Charge. All requests are reviewed first by KCCG for eligibility, and grants are not guaranteed.

Garcia’s story of struggling to pay for her son’s funeral is not uncommon, says Damon Daniel, president of Ad Hoc Group Against Crime.

“There isn’t a week that goes by that Ad Hoc Against Crime doesn’t receive a call from a grieving family, trying to figure out how to bury their loved one,” Daniel says.

Daniel says many families simply don’t have life insurance or savings to cover such costs, which can quickly reach thousands of dollars. And the burden of worrying about those bills causes further stress when dealing with the aftereffects of violent crime.

“It’s a tough fund to have, but it’s a critical fund. It is life-changing,” says KCCG president Klassie Alcine. “You’re already going through so much trauma in general.”

There are other resources for people experiencing a loss from violent crime. Missouri’s Crime Victims’ Compensation Program offers up to $25,000 in benefits benefits, but they’re limited to specific expenses and may take longer to receive.

“I see the invoices of the funeral costs every week,” Alcine says. “It’s hard to see so many young men and women being killed in our city that are preventable deaths.”

Alcine says that KCCG’s greater mission is to bring the community together to solve the problem of violent crime. Her next step is to start weekly meetings modeled after a program in Omahawhere the city was able to reduce violent crime by 74% and increase high school graduation rates.

The Empowerment Network in Omaha started in 2006 with regular meetings of a range of residents and leaders to find solutions to a variety of issues. Alcine says she hopes to form a similar network in Kansas City, but has not released any details yet.

Garcia says because of KC Common Good, she was able to move forward with Carlos’ funeral without waiting.

“It was very important to us because we kept the date that we wanted,” she says. “We couldn’t have done it without their help.”

To donate to the fund, the public can go online at kccommongood.org. Or they can mail a check to KC Common Good, 1100 Rockhurst Road, Kansas City, MO 64110.

As KCUR’s general assignment reporter and visual journalist, I bring our audience inside the daily stories that matter most to the people of the Kansas City metro, showing how and why events affect residents. Through my photography, I seek to ensure our diverse community sees itself represented in our coverage. Email me at carlos@kcur.org.
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