ODESSA, Texas (KMID/KPEJ) – On Monday, police said 21-year-old Leona Swinney was found dead in her bedroom in Missouri. She lived in Odessa for more than 20 years before moving to Missouri. While she left her home behind, she also left her mark on the community.

Leona’s mother Christina Maliszewski said Leona’s love and passion for animals, and the need to help them, brought an entire community around her.

“Ever since she was a child, she had a deep love for animals, big or small, and I was always having problems, with her bringing strays home. She always brought strays home, anytime she ever saw anything in need,” emphasized Maliszewski.

Leona was widely known throughout the animal rescue community in Odessa for her work with Fix West Texas and West Texas Pet Detectives. Her grandpa, David Rudd, even said she was looking to start her own business.

“Finally, a few months ago, she was like, what I need to do is take business courses, so I’ll know better how to open my own animal rescue. And I just thought, yes! That’s what we need to think about doing,” exclaimed Rudd.

Her mother said she’s never met anyone that had Leona’s passion and said she had the most amazing ability.

“She just had this beautiful gift with animals and people. And it’s just such a shame that she’s gone,” said Maliszewski.

Rudd said the loss of someone who worked so hard to help the animals around her is a tragic loss for everyone.

“I’m just so proud of that young lady. It does make it kind of hard, because she did so much good work. It’s just a huge loss,” said Rudd.

And while Leona may be gone, her legacy and memory will live on.

“Thank you for making such a huge impact in my life as well, and I will just do everything in my power to carry on your legacy in any way that I can,” added sobbed Maliszewski.

The family says they are working on bringing Leona back to Odessa so she can be buried at home. If you would like to help them, go to the following GoFundMe page for more information.