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Everyday Heroes 2015

‘The first person to call’

Aurora man comforts people as hospice volunteer, lay minister

Mark Alleman can immediately recall what led him to become a hospice volunteer.

“I met a guy who was dying of cancer, and this man was more alive that most people you run into,” Alleman said. “This guy was just making the most of every day, that’s what really struck me about it.”

Alleman, an Aurora resident, has been involved with Fox Valley Volunteer Hospice, 200 Whitfield Drive, Geneva, since 1990. From 1994 to 2003, he also was on the organization’s board of directors.

Alleman wanted to do some volunteer work that went beyond helping at events and fundraising.

Hospice volunteers can provide direct patient care where they meet once a week with someone who has a life expectancy of six months or less, he said.

Volunteers also can provide bereavement care to the surviving spouse and family members after their loved one dies.

Alleman said sometimes he might be meeting with three or four different people a week. The hospice volunteer experience is a profound one, he said.

“When you spend one or two nights with somebody who is really facing the end of life, it helps to put your life in perspective and make you realize how lucky you are to have your health,” Alleman said.

Alleman has become an active bike rider, participating for four years in a row in The Des Moines Register’s annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa, which is a one-week, 468-mile trek.

Alleman said he agrees with the slogan “the road is a great listener.”

“I think it’s good therapy and a good thing for your physical side and your mental side,” Alleman said of the event.

Alleman began to help more people after becoming a lay minister in the late 1990s at the Unitarian Universalist Society of Geneva, 102 S. 2nd St., Geneva. He has been a member there for more than 35 years and now is one of the church’s six lay ministers.

Lay ministry is an outward extension of the church and not therapeutic counseling, according to the society’s website. Lay ministers can provide someone in a significant life event with a confidential, active listener and presence, according to the website. 

Alleman said he has a weekly schedule that consists of working out, volunteering and visiting people. He said he is fortunate to have an active life in retirement. He worked for Caterpillar for 36 years, mostly at the Montgomery plant.

Fellow church member Deb Leoni nominated Alleman as an Everyday Hero because she said he is always willing to help others. Leoni hosts personal growth workshops and mentors people.

Alleman has an amazingly positive attitude, Leoni said. 

“Mark would be the first person to call if you ever needed a ride, a hand or to just have him sit and listen to you,” Leoni said.

Alleman said becoming a hospice volunteer was the best thing he has done besides raising his family. 

“This has been an amazing, positive influence on my life,” he said.

The Alleman lowdown

Who he is: Mark Alleman, a volunteer with Fox Valley Volunteer Hospice

Town of residence: Aurora

Age: 71

Family: Divorced; children, Angie, 44, and Brandon, 41

Hobbies: Bike riding

Fun Fact: He grew up on a farm in central Iowa, barn animals included.

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