Founder & Executive Director
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.
Director of Finance
Jane discovered Bernie’s Book Bank several years ago, when the CPA firm she worked for took on Bernie’s Book Bank as a new client. She knew when she met Brian, and saw his energy and excitement around book distribution, that the organization would continue to grow and put books into the hands of kids who need them.
As a CPA, Jane has both audited and worked for various nonprofit organizations throughout her career. Prior to becoming a CPA, she majored in journalism at Northwestern University. So coming to Bernie’s Book Bank and working with books is a natural mix of her skills and interests.
Jane is proud to be a member of the team at Bernie’s Book Bank. She has always loved reading, and now loves watching her kids become engrossed in books.
Director of Marketing & Communications
Raised by a librarian, Sarna is passionate about reading and creating book lovers from a young age. She had never heard of Bernie’s Book Bank before taking on her current role- something she wants to change! Sarna comes to Bernie’s Book Bank with 20 years of marketing, branding, promotions and digital experience at organizations big and small. She holds a Master’s degree in Integrated Marketing Communications from Northwestern University and is responsible for strengthening Bernie’s Book Bank’s brand, engaging the organization’s key stakeholders and encouraging involvement across communities. The children that Bernie’s Book Bank serves are reading their way to better lives and Sarna is thrilled to support such a powerful mission.
A proud volunteer for both the Lynn Sage Breast Cancer Research Foundation and the Jewish United Fund, Sarna balances giving back with family time, ghost writing, travelling and Jeopardy! watching.
Processing & Volunteer Manager [email protected]
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.”
Book Collections & 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 Book Collections, Processing & Distribution 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.”
Nikki Way Events Manager [email protected]
Nikki was fortunate to proudly own the entire Goosebumps book series as a child, among many other books that shaped who she is today. She is thrilled to support the mission of Bernie’s Book Bank as the Events Manager, where she is responsible for managing Bernie’s Book Bank’s three event spaces for corporate, civic, and social events which support the organization’s mission.
Nikki has a background in small business, B2B, and nonprofit sectors. In her previous role, she worked as Special Events & Marketing Manager for a historic settlement house on Chicago’s west side. She has a BA in Communications from Columbia College Chicago, is certified in Mental Health First Aid, and a graduate of the Second City Improv & Writing programs.
Visitor Services Associate
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 Visitor Services Associate, she greets visitors and volunteers and contributes 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. Nancy has a B.A. in English from National Louis University in Evanston. She currently lives in Libertyville with her husband and daughter.
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.
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.”
Processing Center Specialist
Sara discovered Bernie’s Book Bank several years ago when looking for a place to volunteer with her children. As a long-time believer in the power of books to change lives and the importance of literacy for everyone, she fell in love with Bernie’s Book Bank’s mission right away.
Sara has a B.A. in English and Business Minor from the University of Notre Dame. She has worked as a reporter and copy editor and lives in Lake Forest with her husband, three teenagers and their dog and cat. She is thrilled to be working to make sure as many children as possible have books to call their own.
Processing Center Specialist
John spent much of the last ten years counseling people with mental illness and substance abuse issues. What drew John to Bernie’s Book Bank was the opportunity to help Bernie’s Book Bank significantly increase book ownership among at risk children so they have a much greater chance to succeed in life and avoid society’s pitfalls.
John grew up in Lake Forest and holds a Bachelor of Science in Human Services from Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota. He spends his free time playing guitar for blues bands and hanging out with his dog Sadie.
Visitor Services Specialist
After retiring from nearly thirty years in the financial industry, Nancy had the opportunity to spend a significant amount of time with her father and then seven grandchildren. With the youngest now in school, Nancy wanted to work with a non-profit organization with a strong mission and a motivated team. She found both with Bernie’s Book Bank.
Throughout her life, volunteering and giving back to the community has been important to Nancy. A few of the more recent opportunities include directing an independent Meals on Wheels organization that annually delivered nearly fifty thousand nutritious meals to seniors, acting on the board of the Long Island Alzheimer’s Foundation whose mission is to provide support and education to caregivers, and reading college textbooks for CD’s distributed to colleges for use by blind or dyslexic students.
Nancy is proud to be part of the great team here at Bernie’s Book Bank and welcomes the chance to interact with volunteers and supporters who help get books into the hands of the children we serve.
Collection and Distribution Specialist
John discovered Bernie’s Book Bank through his wife who donated their son’s outgrown books. He spent 18 years running sleep labs and helping patients with sleep disorders. John has a teenage son and two dogs. He holds a B.A. in History from S.I.U., Carbondale. He spends his free time on Lake Michigan or at his cabin in the woods in Northern Wisconsin.
Rob’s first visit to Bernie’s Book Bank was about four years ago with her children’s Family Book Club at Kildeer Countryside School. Since then, she has volunteered with her two Girl Scout troops and two Lego Robotics teams. In fact, her Girl Scout troops were able to jointly raise money and donate several iPads for sign in to Bernie’s.
Rob has over seven years of Customer Relationship Management database experience and was an entrepreneur for over 15 years. Her background includes recruiting and human resources, training, sales support, and customer service. She also volunteers in the Employment Services group at her church teaching job seekers Resume Writing, LinkedIn for Beginners and Job Fair Readiness (which she co-authored). Rob holds a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Arts with a Human Resource focus from DePaul University in Chicago.
Rob is thrilled to be a member of the team at Bernie’s Book Bank. She is passionate about giving back to the community and looks forward to working with volunteers who truly make a difference. Rob currently lives in Buffalo Grove with her husband, two daughters and two cats.
Book Drive Specialist
After graduating from Roosevelt University with degrees in Integrated Marketing Communications and Psychology, Rosie set forth into the non-profit world to achieve her number one goal: give back to her community. Having followed her childhood dreams and passions, Rosie made a career out of helping others. Determined to help people the best she can, Rosie has always striven to give more than she receives. With over 10 years of volunteer experience and 2 years as a non-profit professional, Rosie has raised almost $2 million for charity and helped hundreds of people.
Her passion for reading is rooted in a childhood filled to the brim with books. Being whisked away on magical adventures, learning new and exciting skills and trying to figure out who done it, made her fall in love with each book she picked up. Being able to help the next generation fall in love with a new batch of wonderful stories is an exciting new chapter Rosie cannot wait to embark on.
Her passion for reading and the non-profit world led her to find Bernie’s Book Bank and dive in head first into their thrilling mission. Rosie is very eager to start helping youth create their own stories. A wise person once told Rosie, “Don’t be careful what you wish, be happy some wishes come true.” Rosie is ecstatic that her wish to join Bernie’s wonderful team and help children flourish and succeed has come true.
Processing Center Specialist
Anne Penway became familiar with Bernie’s Book Bank when her daughter’s special needs high school class and their “buddies” were welcomed as volunteers. Anne followed up by joining her daughter in giving time as a volunteer with their church. “I was very impressed at the welcoming atmosphere at Bernie’s, especially for volunteers with special needs, and the general diversity of volunteers who serve.”
After a few years of law practice (now long and gratefully retired from all that!) and nearly 20 years service in non-profit organizations and higher education, Anne was looking for her “third act” career, and jumped at the opportunity to join Bernie’s Book Bank. An avid reader, Anne is passionate about the power of reading and books to change and improve lives. “As a nerdy kid, I always had a friend in a book, and I’m particularly fond of historical and speculative fiction/fantasy. I was one of those kids who was determined to read every book in the children’s fiction section of the Lake Bluff Library, but I remember being very reluctant to take the books back when they were due! I still covet books – can’t bear to discard them, and Bernie’s mission to collect and distribute books and increase book ownership among children is dear to my heart.”
Anne holds a bachelor’s degree from Pomona College in Philosophy/Literature (cobbled together so she didn’t have to major in music and take music theory but could still spend a lot of time singing!) and a law degree from Northwestern University. She is a trained improviser, having performed with the Second City Children’s Theater and The ImprovOlympic (now IO Theater). Anne is a “lifer” Lake Bluffer now residing in Knollwood with her daughter and cat, Sophie.
Processing Center Specialist
Heather began volunteering with Bernie’s Book Bank in 2010, in the original warehouse processing center. Since then she has remained an active volunteer, lending her decorating talents to the Annual Book Lover’s Lunch. In November of 2016 she made the commitment to work to increase literacy among at risk children, when she transitioned from active volunteer to a full time processing center specialist.
Heather holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration with a focus on Finance, she has been a Project Manager, Office Manager and Controller in her most recent careers before joining the Bernie’s Book Bank Team. Living in Lake Bluff with her husband and two sons; Heather and her family enjoy hitting the road on car trips, enjoying the journey, the destination and the audio books they share along the way.
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 (13) and Ryan (11), of Ally & Ryan 1 MILLION BOOKS fame! Read more about their ongoing project to collect ONE MILLION BOOKS at: http://www.facebook.com/OneMillionBooks