Executives from Hope for the Day, a not-for-profit organization that works closely with restaurant workers through its Logan Square coffeeshop to promote mental health awareness, has ousted its founder following a series of allegations centering on the treatment of employees at the organization.
In late April, Jonny Boucher departed the organization he founded; Hope for the Day announced the move via Instagram and via an online statement. The concerns about Boucher included “challenges with unprofessional communication,” which extended to “gender bias, identity disrespect, tokenizing, and ethnic identity,” according to the statement. Just before his departure, Hope of the Day suspended Boucher and wrote via Instagram that the organization “was made aware of numerous complaints against senior leadership ranging from creating a hostile work environment to sexual impropriety.”
Boucher tells Eater he’s currently unable to discuss his exit. Block Club Chicago first reported news of Boucher’s ouster today.
In addition to the statement, a spokesperson for Sip of Hope tells Eater Chicago: “Both Hope for the Day and Sip of Hope will continue to serve our missions. We stand by all of the actions taken and wish Jonny the best in his future endeavors.”
Hope for the Day’s board had been facing pressure for months to take action — a group of current and past employees delivered a petition calling for Boucher’s removal to the company in February, according to Hope for the Day. An Instagram account dedicated to disseminating unverified stories of abuse involving Boucher and Hope for the Day sprouted up that same time, and addressed the situation with Boucher.
“This is not just about [sic] Johnny, there is a pattern of behavior among Hope for the Day Leadership staff of abuse of power and silencing the voices of those who tried to speak out against them. As shown by the recent termination of some of them. But we will not allow those who have been fired to be scape goats. We will not be satisfied until those who are at fault are held accountable for their actions,” read an anonymous post on the account from April 18.
The account, @thetruthabouthope, has posts in the same style as the @the86dlist, another anonymous account that was established in 2020 full of allegations about Chicago’s restaurant world that rocked the industry. The86dlist’s posts led to the closure of Fat Rice in Logan Square and Michelin-starred Acadia in South Loop.
The user behind @thetruthabouthope did not return requests for comment.
Boucher founded the organization in 2011 to increase the availability of mental health resources. In an interview from last year, Boucher told Eater Chicago that 16 of his friends had died by suicide.
Hope for the Day, which popularized a motto, “it’s OK not to be OK,” also operates a Logan Square coffeeshop. Sip of Hope opened in 2018 and provides a community space to host mental health workshops. The resource has been even more valuable during a pandemic that’s rocked the hospitality world. President Barack Obama even tweeted about Boucher and the coffeeshop in 2018. Hollywood executives were interested just last December in using Sip of Hope for inspiration for a TV show. A spokesperson for Warner Brothers did not return a message for comment on the status of the pilot.
Hope for the Day says it employed a third party investigator to go through the claims before separating from Boucher. The organization is going through a diversity, equity, and inclusion audit and has stepped up sexual harassment and diversity trainings for leadership, according to the organization’s statement.
If you or anyone you know is considering suicide or self-harm or is anxious, depressed, upset, or needs to talk, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text the Crisis Text Line at 741-741. For international resources, here is a good place to begin.