GRAND CROSSING —The mother of a Jackie Robinson West player said she is grateful for all the support she is receiving from strangers who want to help her secure stable housing.
In July, Devona Benton, 47, said her family had to move out of a three-bedroom apartment in Englewood after falling behind on the rent. Benton said she fell behind on rent because she no longer works 40 hours per week for Catholic Charities.
"The landlord took me to court and told me we had to move," said Benton, who grew up in Englewood. "We had to split up because we had a large family."
Living with Benton was her fiancé, a 16-year-old son, a 30-year-old daughter and her three children, and 12-year-old Jaheim Benton, who plays left field for the Jackie Robinson West All Stars, which charmed the city on its way to taking the U.S. Little League World Series championship.
When news broke this week of the family's plight, the family-owned Leak & Sons Funeral Homes volunteered to pay their rent for up to a year.
"Right now me, my fiancé and Jaheim are staying in Auburn Gresham with my son's assistant coach from his former baseball team," Benton said. "And my 16-year-old son is with my brother-in-law and my daughter and her kids are staying with a friend."
Henrietta Leak said when her family heard about Benton's housing situation they did not hesitate to help.
"Giving back to the community is something we have done for years and will continue doing," Leak said.
After having breakfast Saturday with the Rev. Jesse Jackson at the nonprofit Rainbow PUSH Coalition Benton and Jaheim attended a peace rally at Sheldon Heights Church of Christ in West Pullman along with other Jackie Robinson West players, coaches and parents. Joshua Houston, a pitcher for Jackie Robinson West, and his dad Jerry Houston, an assistant coach with the team, are members at Sheldon Heights.
Jaheim said while he thought about his family's housing situation during last week's Little League World Series, he remained focused on winning.
"I felt great when my mom told me we would all be living under the same roof soon thanks to people helping out," said Jaheim. "I want to say thank you to everyone who watched us play and everyone who is helping my family get back on their feet."
The seventh grader at Langford Community Academy in Englewood said his favorite subject is math and if he does not become a professional baseball player he plans on becoming a lawyer.
"I want to become a lawyer because lawyers get paid good money," Jaheim said.
On Friday, the Cubs and White Sox announced plans to honor the Jackie Robinson West squad. The Sox will make a donation to the league, give players autographed jerseys and hang a plaque at U.S. Cellular Field.
The Cubs will host an on-field ceremony Monday before the Little Leaguers throw out the first pitch. They'll also lead the seventh-inning stretch.
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