Offers pour in to help find a home for family of Little League champ
BY TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporter August 29, 2014 9:18PM
Jackie Robinson West's Jaheim Benton and his mother Devona Benton on Friday, August 29, 2014, in Chicago. | Chandler West/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 1, 2014 6:36AM
Jackie Robinson West star Jaheim Benton and his family have received an outpouring of support after a Chicago Sun-Times story described their struggles to find a home.
Jaheim’s mom Devona Benton says she’s felt stress for months. On Friday, she smiled and gave her 12-year-old son a hug as they visited her sister in Englewood.
“I can finally breathe,” said Devona Benton, 47.
The family has received offers ranging from a free home in Harvey, free rent for a year, to job opportunities for Devona Benton, and school and clothing for Jaheim, who starts seventh grade next week at Langford Community Academy in West Englewood.
Jaheim and his family have been sleeping at the homes of friends and family for weeks, after his mother’s hours were cut in June as a health care provider for the elderly. His father works as a part-time radiator technician.
“Thank you. Thank you, Jesus,” Devonta Benton said. “I don’t know what I would do without this help.”
Jaheim and his father Frank Jackson went on the air at WVON-1690 AM Friday, and were inundated with callers wanting to help, according to Courtney Scott, executive producer of WVON’s The Matt McGill Morning Show.
“Everybody just called us all throughout the day to help. They were flooding our phones with calls, looking to assist,” Scott said. Hundreds of people have sent the Sun-Times emails asking where they can help donate to the family. The family has teamed up with the Black Star Project, who will manage their donations via an online campaign, phone and mail.
The city of Harvey has offered Jaheim and his family a home they had planned to auction off.
“We were putting this on the auction block to be sold but we’d rather donate to the family for $1,” said city of Harvey spokesman Sean Howard. “It’s inhabitable, fully furnished and ready to go.”
Frank Mancari, owner of the Mancari auto dealerships, has offered the family free rent for a year at home of their choice. And an anonymous donor has pledged to support the family with a bank account that would help withdraw funds for rent for a year.
The Leak family, of Leak & Sons Funeral Homes, offered the same.
Spencer Leak Jr. says his family wants to help, but they don’t want the focus to be shifted from the Jackie Robinson West championship team.
“This is not about them. This is about the accolades for JRW and how they brought the city, the country and the world together,” Leak said. “This is just a little setback, but me and my dad always say a setback is a setup for a comeback. We’re going to try to help them come back.”
Readers have offered Jaheim’s mom jobs, including a position at Leo High School on the South Side.
Dan McGrath, president of Leo, said she’s free to call the school and talk about a position in the cafeteria or the business office. He said the school has several Jackie Robinson alums, whom he called “great players and great kids.”
Several other readers offered to buy school supplies for Jaheim.
The Jackie Robinson West star — No. 8 — was welcomed home a hero on Monday after scoring five runs in Williamsport, Pa., where the team became national champions. Jaheim is staying with his father, Frank Jackson, at the home of a coach, a family friend, in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood.
Those wishing to donate can go to npo.justgive.org/theblackstarproject and specify Benton/Jackson Family Fund under the program pulldown. Checks or money orders can be sent to The Black Star Project for the Benton/Jackson Family Fund, 3509 South King Drive, Chicago, Illinois, 60653. Donations also are being taken in person Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Black Star Project office. Telephone donations can be made at 773-285-9600.