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.
Jessica L. Gardner
The daughter of a former remedial reading teacher, Jessica has seen how children who struggle with reading, struggle in all aspects of their education, so when she became acquainted with the mission of Bernie’s Book Bank, she knew she wanted to be part of the team. As the Event Manager, Jessica organizes events for individuals and organizations who support Bernie’s Book Bank’s mission and desire a unique space for their community events, corporate meetings, or private parties.
Jessica has eight years of non-profit experience. She has worked as the Alumni Relations and Events Manager at Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, where she planned community events with best-selling authors and kept alumni connected to LFGSM and each other. She served on the Lake Forest College Alumni Board, where she created the class reunion planning process, increasing reunion volunteerism, attendance, and giving. Jessica has also run her own business, worked as a paralegal for a major Washington, D.C. law firm, and investigated employment discrimination cases for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Jessica holds a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from Lake Forest College, has earned a Certificate in Volunteer Management from HandsOn Suburban Chicago, and done coursework in non-profit management. Jessica writes the Little Merry Sunshine blog for ChicagoNow of the Chicago Tribune Media Group, and recently completed two books, a cookbook of her family’s recipes and a personal medical journal, which she’s working on getting published. She also regularly volunteers in her community for organizations that help change people’s lives.
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, daughter and their dog.
Book Collections, 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 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.”
Processing & Volunteer Supervisor [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.”
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
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.
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 husband, daughter and cat, Sophie.
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.
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.
Collection and Distribution Specialist
Bob was raised in a family of educators and was always within reach of a good book. What appeals to Bob about Bernie’s Book Bank is the ability to provide at-risk children with the opportunity to read books that they might not have ever had a chance to read.
Bob began his career in commercial lending followed by 15 years at the Chicago Stock Exchange as a floor specialist. Eventually, he followed in his family’s footsteps and ventured into teaching. In addition to his teaching certificate, Bob holds a B.S. in Finance from Northern Illinois University and an M.A. in Elementary Education from the University of Phoenix. In his spare time, Bob serves on the board of directors for the Boys Iceless Hockey League, a non-profit organization founded in 1971, serving the communities of Antioch, Lindenhurst, and Lake Villa.
“I am truly looking forward to being a part of an organization that is passionately involved in giving young children the opportunity to read by providing books. The appreciation the children show when they receive their books is priceless!”
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