On a brisk Tuesday morning in November, the children of Whittier Elementary School in Waukegan gathered around to watch Brian Floriani of Lake Forest, founder of Bernie’s Book Bank, hand over the organization’s one-millionth donated book. In celebration of the milestone, every child in the school actually went home with six books that day. There was no greater example of the nearly 3-year-old organization’s mission statement than this monumental morning: connecting children needing books with books needing children.
Bernie’s Book Bank, created in memory of Brian’s father, has collected, processed, and distributed one million books to at-risk children in the Chicagoland area. The organization serves more than 55,000 children per year, in areas from Zion to the South Side of Chicago. Gently used books are collected through schools, businesses, publishers, and its recently established Book Drop Network. Recipients of these books are children within schools where 50 percent or more of its students qualify for the free or reduced lunch program. The books are theirs to keep.
Floriani explains that reaching distribution goals beyond the one million mark will take time and investment. “We have spent the past three years creating a children’s book bank model that is effective but most importantly efficient,” explains Floriani. “Every $1 allows us to collect, process, and redistribute four quality books. We plan to achieve two million by the end of 2013. This continued growth and long-term sustainability rests squarely on the shoulders of financial predictability.”
And it’s the volunteers, the donors, the Board, and the staff that keep the wheels in motion at the organization’s distribution center in Lake Forest. Those surrounding Floriani keep him energized and working hard, and the spirit of his father encourages him to believe and to think bigger. “I spend more time with my father now than I ever did before,” says Floriani with a smile. “Because his image is the logo, he’s everywhere I look. I see him and truly feel he is right here beside me every step of the way.”
To discover ways to donate to Bernie’s Book Bank, visit berniesbookbank.org.