Rodriguez is the funeral director at Zefran Funeral Home and Dignity Memorial in Pilsen, and she’s also a former gang member.
“I have buried over 200 kids, teenagers and young adults,” Rodriguez said. “I am tired of mothers and fathers and grandparents coming to my funeral home and telling me their child was killed.”
Rodriguez is doing something about the pervasive problem in her neighborhood. She runs a community gang intervention program for girls at the funeral home.
She speaks with great authority on the subject of gang violence, and tells groups of girls that joining a gang is like "rolling the dice" with their life.
Rodriguez was a founding member of the Chicago street gang the Lady Aces, but quit the life when her best friend was gunned down.
“She was walking down 18th street when she was shot 3 times,” Rodriguez said. “That wasn’t the route that I wanted to go so I had to make a decision and that decision was to leave the gang.”
Now she uses her experience to tell teenage girls about the perils of joining a gang. She counters the idea of a gang giving freedom to these girls with stories of murder and rape.
She knows she can’t save everyone, and, unfortunately, she could see some of the girls that she councils back in her funeral home for all the wrong reasons. But, she says she tries because saving one is better than saving none.
Concepcion Rodriguez,can be reached at Zefran Funeral Home and Dignity Memorial, 773-847-6688 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org