Habitat Hero Allan Benson
Allan F. Benson
Al is a freelance reporter and journalist for the area publications in the Fox Valley area. Al has always made sure the community was informed of what Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity was doing since our first public home dedication in 1991 for the Seay family on Titsworth Court in Aurora.
Al has helped the organization grow into what it is today and we cannot thank him enough. Al Benson’s constant dedication to the betterment of Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity and the surrounding community is greatly appreciated. Honoring Al Benson as the 2021 Habitat Hero is a long overdue recognition to commemorate his contributions to Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity and our homeowners.
Al Benson has been an Aurora native his entire life. He attended and graduated from Aurora University, when it was still Aurora College, in 1964 with an English major. During his time at the college, he participated in multiple extracurricular activities such as writing for the school newspaper, the yearbook, and the Writing Magazine. While he was attending Aurora College, he was a part-time editor at the Beacon-News. After graduating, he became a full-time photo journalist at the Beacon-News for a few years. He was then offered a job at the Aurora University Public Relations office as a writer and photographer. After his time there, Al worked as a freelance editor for several magazines and corporations, such as AT&T. In between all his reporting, Allan eventually got married to his lovely wife, Jean Benson, in 1989 and with this marriage inherited five stepchildren.
Al wrote a story about Fox Valley Habitat and the first home that was being dedicated in 1991 while working at Rockwell International. He volunteered to do the story at the request of Robert Richardson, former supervisor at the Aurora College. This is when he connected with Duane Mevis, one of the founding fathers of Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity. He started covering all the ground breaking and dedication ceremonies, came out to take photos and do stories on the corporate volunteer groups that came out to work, and got to know all the families working side by side the other volunteers. As his passion for the mission grew the more he wanted to do for Habitat. So, he decided he wanted to serve on the Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity Board of Directors. Al served many years on the board as Affiliate Publicist, documenting the changes of the affiliate, writing stories and taking pictures of the building progress of the homes being built and families who were going to be living in them. Through his pictures and articles in the area newspapers he made sure the word got out about this affordable housing ministry in Aurora. Even though it has been many years since he has served on the Board, his commitment to the mission and the families continues and now spans over three decades. Al has watched 67 homes being built and attended more volunteer build sites and volunteer meetings than any one person. When asked about why he connected with the organization he said, “I liked how the families have been helped and how this organization has changed these families’ lives forever.” His most memorable Habitat moments are the first home dedication for the Seay family in September 1991, most recent groundbreaking ceremony for the Owino family during the Covid pandemic in October 2020, and the first virtual Faith Build Home Dedication for the Estrada Family in December 2020.
When asked about the biggest misconception about Habitat for Humanity, Benson said, “Most people think the organization is simply giving away houses, when in reality it’s a partnership with the homeowners. They have to put in hundreds of sweat equity hours once they have qualified for the house.” He also emphasized that the organization is a nonprofit and needs donations to operate and build more homes. If more people knew how much Habitat for Humanity does for the community, they would be as dedicated to helping the organization as he is.
Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity would like to thank Allan Benson for all of his many contributions and recognizes Al by naming him Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity’s “Habitat Hero of 2021”. CEO, Jeffrey Barrett noted, “I have worked with Al Benson since 1997. No Board Member, no volunteer, no staff member, has been more dedicated to promoting the mission, opportunity and accomplishments of Fox Valley Habitat for Humanity.It has been and continues to be an honor to have Allan Benson on our team.”