In 2008, Bernie’s Book Bank Founder and Executive Director Brian Floriani left his job as a golf professional to become a reading paraprofessional for Shiloh Park Elementary in Zion, Illinois. The sudden death of his father, Dr. Bernard P. Floriani for whom Bernie’s Book Bank is named, inspired him to do something different with his life.
Brian spent every day working with struggling readers. And while he was able to help each one individually, he realized that his efforts were not doing anything to prepare young readers to enter school. After learning that only 24 percent of incoming six-year-old children in Waukegan, Illinois interacted with books, Brian began to envision a business that would pour children’s books into at-risk homes, and help prepare children to enter school “reading ready.” He began collecting children’s books in his garage and distributed them in age-appropriate bags to children at Shiloh Park Elementary. And thus, Bernie’s Book Bank was born.
Today, Brian is confident that Bernie’s Book Bank can and will transform the educational journeys of at-risk children throughout America, and is thankful for every person who has helped us connect children needing books with books needing children.
Director of Operations
Caryn first became acquainted with Bernie’s Book Bank when she volunteered in the processing center during drop-in hours. “I was so impressed with the staff, volunteers and the overall energy of the facility, I knew I wanted to become more involved with the organization,” she said. As the Director of Operations, Caryn leads Bernie’s Book Bank’s day-to-day operations to help the book bank increase book ownership among at-risk children.
Caryn has 15 years of nonprofit experience. She served as the Division Manager of Service Activities at Lions Clubs International and worked at Little City Foundation, where she managed community-based services for individuals with disabilities and their families. Caryn also served two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in the Republic of Moldova, working with a non-governmental organization dedicated to serving disadvantaged children and youth. Caryn also has 10 years of corporate experience in a variety of industries including human resources, real estate management, commercial insurance, publishing and advertising.
Caryn holds a master’s degree in Human Services from Concordia University Chicago and a B.A. in Communications from Northern Illinois University. In 2013, she earned a Certificate in Nonprofit Management from the University of Illinois at Chicago.
Caryn volunteers regularly in her community and supports various causes locally, nationally and globally. Whether through her professional or volunteer work, she has always had a passion for improving the lives of children. Now at Bernie’s Book Bank, Caryn continues to live out her passion by helping to provide more children with an opportunity to succeed through book ownership and early reading.
Nancy was first introduced to Bernie’s Book Bank when she brought her daughter’s Girl Scout troop to the processing center to volunteer. She was so impressed by the girls’ enthusiasm to participate in the process of sorting the books so that they could get to the children who needed them. Additionally, she was impressed with how much pride the girls felt afterward and how excited they were to do it “again and again and again”. She also felt a strong pull to come back to the organization. “I knew immediately that this was something I wanted to be a part of. The operation is so very important; books are so very important.”
As Office Coordinator she will support the team in every way possible and contribute her many years of experience to further enhance the processes within the organization. Nancy has 15+ years of administrative and bookkeeping experience. She also has many years of experience volunteering with different organizations. She is very excited that she can now combine her professional skills with her strong desire to work in a philanthropic environment. She is looking forward to beginning a new chapter in her life working with Bernie’s Book Bank. Nancy has a B.A. in English from National Louis University in Evanston. She currently lives in Libertyville with her husband, daughter and their dog.
Book Collections Manager
Dawn first heard of Bernie’s Book Bank while teaching at Oak Terrace Elementary school in Highwood, IL. Each fifth-grade student received two bags of books throughout the school year. The children’s complete delight in having their “own” books left a lasting impression on her. Through these children, Dawn realized how many children do not have access to books outside of school, and the importance of “book ownership.”
Dawn was touched by the magic of children’s books as a child, and it followed her into her career. She brings her background in teaching and children’s book publishing to Bernie’s Book Bank. Dawn’s mission is to collect as many books as possible for distribution to as many children as possible. She can’t think of a better career. She lives in Lincolnshire with her fabulously large family and many children’s books.
Processing & Distribution Manager
After spending most of his career as a warehouse manager in the automotive parts industry, Scott knew it was time for a change, and set off to find a new experience that allowed him to use his skills and talents to make a difference in his community. As the Distribution and Processing Manager, Scott plays an integral role in making sure the books donated to Bernie’s Book Bank find their way into the eager hands of curious children!
As a parent, Scott has always understood and appreciated the value of reading not only as a learning and development tool, but also as a shared experience for parents and their children to spend quality time together.
On his first day, Scott was part of an event that distributed over 1600 books to 140 children. “All it took was one event, and I was hooked,” Scott says. “The expressions of pure joy on their faces was a great reminder that nothing is more important than our children.”
Director of Communications and Marketing
Jill first got involved with Bernie’s Book Bank by organizing a book drive through the service club of her children’s school and was amazed to see how excited the students were to participate. She says, “I couldn’t believe how easily the children appreciated the problem of children not having access to books. The mission just makes great sense – to both children and parents alike.”
As Director of Communications and Marketing, she will continue to increase awareness and expand the mission of Bernie’s Book Bank, resulting in more books donated, more volunteers engaged and more money raised.
Jill brings 20+ years of community service and marketing experience to Bernie’s Book Bank, having worked in consumer travel, publishing and affinity marketing industries. Jill received her B.A. in Communication and Literature from The American University in Washington D.C. She lives in Highland Park with her husband, two children, their dog, and hundreds of books.
Greg LeFebvre found Bernie’s Book Bank through a friend in February 2011 and began volunteering in the warehouse weekly. He knew immediately that he had found home. He loves the mission and the immediate impact that Bernie’s Book Bank has on the children we serve. His volunteer role grew into a full-time position in July 2011. Greg now manages warehouse operations and enjoys interacting with our many volunteers on a daily basis.
Mark found Bernie’s Book Bank through his cousin, who volunteers with us. Mark says, “At first, it was just a job, but it is so much more rewarding than any other job that I have had.” He is an avid magazine reader, fisherman and Harley Davidson enthusiast.
Nick has spent most of his professional career working with children of all ages. He is a certified teacher and taught middle school science for four years. Nick also spent nearly 10 years assisting special needs children as an aid for his local park district. Bernie’s Book Bank has given Nick a chance to get back to making children’s lives better again. He believes nothing is more important to a child’s education than reading, and book ownership is the key to growing the skill of reading. Nick also tutors high school students in preparation for the ACT.
A father of two, Nick understands the impact Bernie’s Book Bank has on families that can’t give their children books. Books have been an integral part of his and his children’s lives, and he is proud to be a part of something so vital for Chicagoland’s children’s education and well-being.
Andy Donovan Distribution Specialist
Andy heard about Bernie’s Book Bank through a family member who teaches at a school that is served by the organization and who also volunteers. He was drawn in by our “efficiency, focus, and reach.”
A recent graduate of University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse with a degree in Community Health Education, Andy is eager to establish a career in outreach. He has a passion for strategies which empower youth with the tools to gain ownership of their education and their future. He brings a background in grant writing, public health, and university research.
He is looking forward to establishing positive relationships with the schools, WIC Centers and the children served by Bernie’s Book Bank. Andy says he’s optimistic about the future and “proud to be a part of the organization that will continue to have such profound impact in the Chicago area.”
David moved to the U.S. just 2 years ago from Cuba, where he was a lawyer. He is an avid reader and has already proven to be a great asset to the Bernie’s Book Bank team!
“When I knew about Bernie’s Book Bank I did not have a job. Even today (in a romantic way) I think that “I do not have a job”. I say this is because not everybody has the opportunity to feel every day the beautiful energy from children when they touch, browse and read a book. I have in my mind, as a photo, the first smile that I received from a kid when I gave him my first bag with books on my first distribution….I am David; I love my family, music, to dance, ride a bike and read books. And every day I try to take a step forward.”
Terry DeMarco Processing Center Specialist
Terry spent most of the past 30 years as an IT professional. Two years ago, however, he began a quest to reinvent himself. During that period of change, books always seemed to pop up and play a major role in his life. He wrote two children’s books: The Strange World of Kal E. Kalzoo and The Quantum Passageway. He was also a volunteer recording artist at Learning Ally (formerly Recorded Books for the Blind and Dyslexic) where he helped produce audiobooks for students with learning disabilities. He heard about Bernie’s Book Bank from a neighbor who had recently organized a book drive. He decided to drop by the processing center to donate some of his books. That is where he met Brian Floriani.
“We spoke only for a few minutes, but I was so impressed at how passionately he believed in what he was doing to help these at-risk children that I knew I just had to participate in some way. We shook hands and he said, ‘I hope to see you around here more often.’ A few weeks later I began volunteering at the processing center where I met a host of energetic and enthusiastic people; both staff and volunteers alike. Today, I’m proud to say that I am a part of an awesome team doing the most fulfilling work I have ever done.”
The first time Audra first set foot in Bernie’s Book Bank, with her son’s high school swim team, she was immediately drawn to its mission and the energy of staff and volunteers alike. Not long after, she joined the staff as a part-time Assistant Processing Center Specialist. “I’m happy to be part of a team that’s doing such important work on behalf of children who aren’t as fortunate as I was. I’ve always believed that reading is the key to opening many doors.”
Part-time Collection and Distribution Specialist
As a parent, Andee has long understood the importance of book ownership and searched for a way to collect and give books to those less fortunate. She found the Page it Forward program and Bernie’s Book Bank and says, “Here was the missing piece.” Page It Forward Deerfield was created with the goal of collecting 10,000 books – three months later, Andee and her family had collected 25,232 to benefit Bernie’s Book Bank! Andee began volunteering in our warehouse and going out on collections and distributions. She is now employed as a Driver and Distribution Specialist. She is also the very proud mother of Ally (10) and Ryan (8), of Ally & Ryan 1 MILLION BOOKS fame! Read more about their ongoing project to collect ONE MILLION BOOKS at: http://www.facebook.com/OneMillionBooks