My next chapter is at Bernie's Book Bank

My next chapter is at Bernie's Book Bank

After a long and winding search, I have officially begun the next chapter of my life as the new Event Manager at Bernie’s Book Bank in Lake Bluff.

If you’re not familiar with Bernie’s Book Bank, its mission is to “collect, process, and distribute new and gently used children’s books to significantly increase book ownership among at-risk infants, toddlers and school-age children throughout Chicagoland.

Pretty cool, huh?

In 2009, Brian Floriani (my boss) founded Bernie’s Book Bank in his garage and distributed 140,000 books in its first year. In just six years, Bernie’s Book Bank has now distributed more than 4.9 million books to over 110,000 at-risk children in the Chicago Area. After starting in Brian’s garage, Bernie’s Book Bank quickly moved into a 5,000 square foot Processing Center and last month moved into a 35,000 square foot Processing Center.

Brian launched Bernie’s Book Bank in honor of his late father, Dr. Bernard P. Floriani, who was the son of a coal miner and grew up without running water until he went to college. The one thing he did have was constant access to books. Dr. Floriani went on graduate college, earn a master’s degree, and earn a doctorate in reading education. He understood the power of children owning books because books literally changed his life and moved him from poverty to the middle class in one generation.

In my first two days (I started yesterday), I’ve watched numerous volunteer groups of all ages and abilities come into the Bernie’s Book Bank Processing Center to help sort, sticker, and bag books for distribution for children throughout the Chicago Area. Yesterday, when I’m sure many people were sleeping in and enjoying a day off of school or work, Bernie’s Book Bank was packed with volunteer groups of children from mid-morning until I went home at 5:00. Some brought books to donate and some simply donated their time. Although not quite as busy with volunteers, it seemed like every time I walked through the Processing Center today, there were a numerous volunteers helping Bernie’s Book Bank fulfill its mission.

My job, as the Event Manager at Bernie’s Book Bank, is to facilitate rentals of our event spaces. Bernie’s Book Bank has multiple event spaces that were designed to accommodate groups from fewer than 10 to 300 and more. The spaces can be used for corporate events, weddings, mitzvahs, birthday parties, community events, and much more. Catering is done exclusively by John des Rosiers, owner of WISMA, Inovasi, and The Other Door in Lake Bluff. I think that the best part of holding an event at Bernie’s Book Bank is the opportunity to have both a volunteer and event experience. Have fun and give back.

In addition to renting the Bernie’s Book Bank event spaces, I’m also responsible for facilitating three annual fundraising events: the Birdies and Books Charity Golf Classic and two Book Lovers’ Lunches with famous authors.

I’m looking forward to the challenges and opportunities that come from creating a role from scratch. Because Bernie’s Book Bank moved from the 5,000 square foot facility to the new 35,000 square foot Processing Center just last month, the ability to host events is brand new and it means that I’m creating the processes and designing much of my job from scratch.

I’m also excited to begin this new chapter in my life as the Events Manager at Bernie’s Book Bank (see what I did there?) because it helps me fulfill my personal mission of helping others change their lives. Having grown up with an abundance of books and being read to every night until my parents were hoarse, remembering my mom teach remedial reading, and seeing how in spite of endless reading to David my mom had to call on her remedial reading teaching skills to help him overcome his reading difficulties, I know that books and reading change lives.

Do you enjoy reading Little Merry Sunshine? Of course you do.

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    Jessica Gardner

    A native of Chicago's Northwest Suburbs and resident of the North Shore, Little Merry Sunshine comes by her name honestly. The story goes that as a child, she was always so happy that she even slept with a smile on her face. Her mom nicknamed her Little Merry Sunshine. It stuck, along with her insatiable desire to focus on the good in the world and to leave it a little better than she found it. She does this by sharing her passions and dreams, what inspires her, and maybe you too, and furthering the discussion about how we can listen to our better angels. You can reach her at LittleMerrySunshineCN[at]WowWay[dot]com.

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