From something as simple as reading to something as difficult as dealing with mental and disciplinary issues, there are several non-profits in Lake County that have dedicated their services to helping the youth in the area.
Bernie’s Book Bank Bernie’s Book Bank founder and executive director Brian Floriani has come a long way since running golf schools in Lake Tahoe and West Palm Beach.
Floriani launched Bernie’s Book Bank just over five years ago in honor of his father, Dr. Bernard P. Floriani, or “Bernie,” who passed suddenly 10 years ago. Bernie’s parents were both immigrants and raised eight children in a two-bedroom house with no running water. When he was a child, Bernie turned to books, and that practice framed the rest of his life. He eventually went to college, and earned several degrees before earning his doctorate in reading education.
“When he died, a lot of a things started to change for me,” Floriani says. “I started thinking about what I should be doing and who I should be serving.”
Floriani left his golf job and took up teaching at an elementary school in Zion. That was where he realized the need for books in the community.
“I realized I could probably be more impactful outside of the walls of the school, so I really zeroed in on books,” Floriani says. “It’s staggering how much the lack of book ownership in this country impacts everyone, and it’s a solvable problem.”
Floriani originally launched the project in his garage, and in the first 12 months, distributed 140,000 books to children in need. Now, Bernie’s Book Bank serves 110,000 children with 12 quality books a year. Floriani expects about two million books to go through his doors this year.
“We have to turn to the people and educate the public about how important what we’re doing is,” Floriani says. “People are very charitable.”
Things have gone so well that Bernie’s Book Bank has expanded to a new location in Lake Bluff, which is seven times the size of the current building.
“The new location will allow us to do three things,” Floriani says. “First, it’ll get us to where we need to be book-wise. Second, it will allow a self-sustainable funding model, and third, it will allow us to become a premier volunteer destination here in Chicago.”
The new location features a large processing center, event space, and storage for 700 pallets of books. Currently, Bernie’s Book Bank has a staff of 14 with 17 board members and thousands of volunteers. Donations are accepted daily at their facility, as well as several locations throughout Lake County.
“I really want us to be an American institution,” Floriani says. “Reading is the most important skill anyone will have, and everyone deserves good quality books from the time they are born. America needs an institution like this.”
Allendale Association Many children and teens in Lake County struggle with mental problems, emotional health issues and behavioral concerns and may think that there is nowhere to turn. That’s where the Allendale Association comes in.
For more than 100 years, Allendale has offered outpatient counseling services, foster care programs, independent living, mentoring services and a traditional living program for troubled youth and their families. The main campus of Allendale is located on 100 acres in Lake Villa, which is complete with 100 residential treatment beds. In all, Allendale has a total of 170 licensed beds across four different campuses in Waukegan, Highland Park and Benet Lake, Wis.
Often times, parents themselves call Allendale for help. Other times many children are placed there due to neglect or abuse or because of the foster system.
“Most of the kids we serve have been through the system,” says Mary Shahbazian, president of Allendale. “Through our residential treatment program we help kids figure out what their goals are, what they want and how they will be able to move forward.”
Although Allendale is funded partially through the department of family and children services and state and federal levels, much of their funding comes from local donors.
“We have a really strong group of loyal donors and supporters,” Shahbazian says. “We also have 120 people from the local community who do a lot of volunteerism with us.” In addition to the volunteers, Allendale employs over 450 local people.
Allendale also works closely with the Allendale Shelter Club, which raises funds solely for Allendale. Their biggest event of the year is the Allendale Boutique, which takes place in early November at the Lake Forest Club.
“They really help us with capital needs in terms of buildings and renovations, and recently helped fund the technology center here on campus,” Shahbazian says. “We are very appreciative of what we do have.”