LOGAN SQUARE — Since founding the nonprofit Hope for the Day about six years ago, Jonny Boucher hasn't stopped thinking about creative ways to raise money for suicide prevention.
The 31-year-old former concert promoter has approached just about everyone in his circle about collaborations, from local musicians to the brewers at Three Floyds and Pipeworks.
"I've told my friends that if I could put Hope for the Day on toilet paper [and raise money that way], I would," he said.
For Boucher's latest — and "craziest" — project, he's teaming up with his friends at Dark Matter Coffee to start a charity-driven coffee shop in the former Dill Pickle Co-Op storefront at 3039 W. Fullerton Ave., with the goal of opening in 2018.
"You always hear about breweries and cafes donating 10 percent to charity, or this is the focus for this month .. which is great," Boucher said.
"But this is the first one where we get to say, 'Listen, not only is this a Dark Matter coffee shop, but it's also a beacon of hope in the middle of a neighborhood that needs to reminded about [suicide prevention]. If you live in Chicago, or anywhere, you need to be reminded."
Dark Matter will supply the coffee (and eventually some small food items), but the local roaster won't see any profit. The shop's only goal is to raise money for Hope for the Day. No less than 100 percent of the proceeds will go toward the nonprofit, which will then use the money to fund suicide prevention and mental health education programming.
"Dark Matter is supporting this because they know, at the end of the day, they have staff and customers that struggle [with mental health issues]. They also know their coffee is so good, it can help save a life," Boucher said.
Kyle Hodges, who does communications for Dark Matter, called Boucher and his organization "family."
"[Hope for the Day] has been our largest continuous charitable partner for the last four years," Hodges said. "Unfortunately, people here at Dark Matter have been affected by suicide. When we met Jonny several years ago, he told us what he was doing, and it just struck a chord. We immediately jumped in and asked how we could help."
Selling coffee is merely a "vehicle" to spread awareness, Hodges said.
"We wanted to take another step in helping them continue to not only spread the word, bt also make more of an impact," he said.
The shop will be named after Sip of Hope, a special coffee blend Dark Matter previously helped produce for the nonprofit. It'll have a sidewalk cafe and a "resource wall" with educational materials on suicide prevention and mental health. The baristas will be required to go through mental health training.
"Bartenders, baristas and barbers should all be equipped to talk about mental health because they see people everyday," Boucher said.
Boucher says he has lost a staggering 15 people in his life to suicide, including both his aunt and uncle. It wasn't until 2012, after a particularly tough stretch, that he "closed the book" on his more than decade-long career in the music industry and focused his efforts on suicide prevention fulltime, he said.
"When [my mentor] Mike took his life, my friend Kelly had died from cancer, and I was also going through a breakup ... I really had this, 'What the f--- am I doing with my life?' moment," Boucher said.
To help pay for the coffee shop, Boucher and his board are hosting a fundraiser at WeWork Kinzie, 20 West Kinzie St., Dec. 2. They also launched an online fundraiser with a goal of $250,000. The money raised will go toward the build-out and paying employees "proper" wages. As of Thursday afternoon, the fundraiser had raised $75,687.
Boucher said the fundraiser is a way to get the community involved in the project, which depends on neighbors for its success. The coffee shop will open regardless of whether they meet the goal or not.
"I know there's coffee shops [in Logan Square], but there's not one where you can say 100 percent all proceeds go to support this very important mission with every single cup of coffee," Boucher said.
"Because of society stigma, a lot of people don't feel like they can open up and say, 'I'm not OK right now.' We, as an organization ... that's what we're here to do."