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“Everything happens for a reason.” It’s the type of phrase that a freshman in college gets tattooed on their ribs in flowing script, the type of phrase a grandparent optimistically proclaims when a child spills their freshly prepared ice cream all over the floor. This saying, both cliched and somehow profound, has been ingrained into the minds of Americans of all generations through unrelenting repetition. But no matter how worn out this expression can seem at times, there are countless stories that continue to prove its validity. There is a bounty of stories to be heard at Bernie’s Book Bank that testify to the legitimacy of this saying. Below are the stories of two volunteers who have devoted an incredible amount of time to Bernie’s Book Bank, that remind all of us “everything happens for a reason.”

When Maryann left her full-time job, she did not have a plan to start volunteering at Bernie’s Book Bank. She tried her hand at other local nonprofits, but none had been able to capture her full attention. At a routine dentist appointment, Maryann noticed a bright green flyer poking out from under some clutter. What she saw intrigued her, and she decided to give this growing book bank a chance. 4 years, 2 locations, and 1 Guinness record-breaking book pyramid later, and Maryann never looked back. Although she spends time at other nonprofits, the majority of her volunteering energy is spent at Bernie’s Book Bank. Her love of books forms the basis of a natural connection with Bernie’s Book Bank. As well as this, she cites flexible hours, great music (classics preferred), extremely friendly and helpful staff, and a stress free environment as reasons why she continues to spend so much time in the Processing Center. 

If Maryann had rescheduled her appointment at the dentist 4 years ago, that flyer could have ended up in the garbage before she had a chance to see it. If Bernie’s Book Bank had not picked the brightest, loudest green they could find, Maryann might not have ever noticed that flyer. But like that freshman in college excitedly reads off of their revealed ribs, “everything happens for a reason”. 

Ravit has been making the short trip to Bernie’s Book Bank for more than 2 years, and in that short time she has already approached nearly 1000 hours of volunteering experience. Like Maryann, Ravit had no plans to start volunteering at Bernie’s Book Bank. But one day, her husband mentioned in-passing that a nonprofit specializing in increasing book ownership for at-risk children had opened up a location in Lake Bluff. Ravit, who had always appreciated the importance of literacy as a tool for children to develop, jumped at the chance. After a few extremely productive years to reflect, Ravit maintains that what separates Bernie’s Book Bank from anyone else is the fact that they truly “welcome everybody”. Regardless of age or ability, every volunteer is given the tools and instructions to contribute at Bernie’s Book Bank. She also commends the Processing Center team members and other volunteers for helping to build an intimate and relaxed atmosphere where, to quote Cheers, “everybody knows your name”. Ravit is also very active in Hands Of Peace, an organization which brings teens from Palestine and Israel together to form bonds in the pursuit of lasting peace in the Middle East. 

Had Ravit’s husband not heard about Bernie’s Book Bank through whatever medium that he did, he would never have mentioned it to his wife. If Ravit’s husband had not mentioned that upstart nonprofit in Lake Bluff to Ravit, she might not have ever heard about Bernie’s Book Bank. But like those grandparents say as the child scoops up vanilla ice cream off the ground, “everything happens for a reason.”

Each volunteer has their own story of how they discovered Bernie’s Book Bank. You might have heard about us from a friend, family member, or significant other. You might have read about us on a website, seen a bright green flyer, or just driven by the location on accident. Regardless of how these stories transpired, what is important is that  you arrived at Bernie’s Book Bank, where you could help make literacy possible for all children. We would love to hear more stories from our volunteers like those above, please leave a comment below or contact us through email or any of our social media accounts to share your “everything happens for a reason” story!