They were trying to help a homeless man rebuild his life. Then he died of a drug overdose.
Lounge 51, located inside Dream Hall in Elgin, offers "The Boudreau," a cocktail mix of Canadian Club, Wild Turkey, maple syrup and black walnut bitters. The menu describes it as "a toast for our dear friend Greg Boudreau."
Boudreau was a 53-year-old formerly homeless man who was on probation and who died of a fentanyl overdose May 1 in a windowless room on the third floor of Dream Hall, where he lived and worked.
His death was a shocking blow to his bosses, who said all they had wanted to do was to give him a chance to rebuild his life.
"We're still hurting from the loss," said Ryan Waesche, executive chef at Dream Foods, which includes some Dream Hall operations.
"It was rough," said CEO Kevin Echevarria, who found his body.
Boudreau started working in October as a cook and maintenance worker at the Elgin business, and then was given a place to stay there -- an unfinished office with a couch and bed -- during the cold months, they said. Boudreau seemed to be doing well.
On the day he died he was scheduled to move in with Waesche, who met Boudreau last summer while volunteering for Street Reach, a dinner homeless ministry at Vineyard Church of Elgin. Boudreau had worked as a chef for Motorola in Schaumburg, which Waesche said he verified, so he gave Boudreau a chance to help him cook, first for Street Reach, then at Dream Hall. His skills were obvious, Waesche said.
"His fruits and vegetables were impeccable ..." he said. "He also knew how to anticipate. That's huge for a chef."
Waesche said he forged a bond with Boudreau. "He was truly a hard worker and he was always looking for opportunities, when he had it, and would help anybody."
Boudreau also impressed Jeff Turner, executive partner at Dream Hub, the umbrella organization, and the two pitched to Echevarria the idea of hiring Boudreau.
Boudreau was living in a car at first but was always clean and took showers at the Centre of Elgin, a recreation center, Waesche said. Dream Hall has a bathroom with a shower. Echevarria said he knew the living arrangement was against city code, but wanted to help Boudreau and didn't charge him rent. "In order for somebody to get on their feet, they need to get treated with respect," he said.
The city did not give Echevarria a citation because the issue came to light after Boudreau's death, and typically no citation is given on the first offense anyway, city officials said.
At times Boudreau stayed elsewhere with a girlfriend, his bosses said. The woman didn't return a request for comment.
Boudreau, who had a 2016 misdemeanor drug charge in Cook County, was arrested June 16, 2018, in Elgin, when he was a passenger in a vehicle whose driver had an outstanding warrant, records show. Police found two loaded, uncased handguns in the passenger compartment and both men were charged, police spokeswoman Kristie Hilton said.
Waesche, Echevarria and Turner said they appeared in court or submitted character letters on his behalf. They knew of Boudreau's past drug use, but were adamant they never saw Boudreau under the influence during his time at Dream Hall.
Boudreau was sentenced Nov. 15 to two years' probation, but Kane County court services did not learn of his ongoing drug use. He saw his probation officer five times from November to March, said Lisa Aust, executive director of Kane County court services. He had one drug test in early March, which was negative, Aust said. Probation typically entails three to four random drug tests per year, she said.
Kane County coroner records show that Bourdeau overdosed March 30, the day after his birthday, at a home in Elgin. He was revived with Narcan by paramedics, who said Boudreau told them he snorted heroin.
Waesche, Turner and Echevarria said they didn't know that. The residents of the home in Elgin didn't respond to a request for comment.
The probation officer never found out about the March 30 overdose because hospital records are confidential and there was no police or court involvement, Aust said. Boudreau didn't have an appointment in April -- not unusual, Aust said -- so he wasn't seen again before his death.
Matthew Habib, owner of the now-closed Legit Dogs & Ice at Dream Hall, said he saw Boudreau under the influence a few times -- although not while he was working -- and complained about it to the three men. It was inappropriate for Boudreau to live at Dream Hall, even if he was "a very decent guy" and a hard worker, Habib said.
Waesche said he was surprised by the comments, because Boudreau did some work at Legit Dogs. Habib said that happened only once.
Patrice Aguirre, owner of Cafe Revive at Dream Hall, said she and her husband Jesus occasionally saw Boudreau with a drink but he didn't appear impaired. "He was a very kind and friendly man, who was willing to jump in and help with anything, anytime."
Boudreau seemed to be trying to turn his life around, Aguirre said.
A memorial service for Boudreau was held during a Street Reach dinner in May and led by Echevarria's father. All of the Dream Hall folks, including Habib and the Aguirres, were in attendance.
Boudreau's friends Arnie and Linda Rakowski of Elgin, who'd known him since the 1990s, said he was always helpful and gregarious. He lived in Crystal Lake before his divorce in 2013. He worked as a cook at two hospitals and a high school in the suburbs, but lost his last hospital job and started working for local restaurants, where it seems he met the wrong people, they said. At some point, he lost his apartment, they said.
"He was a really good guy who made a lot of bad choices," Linda Rakowski said.
Boudreau's mother, Irene Boudreau, who lives in Ontario, Canada, said she hadn't seen her son in a few years but talked to him two to three times per week. She last talked to him the day before he died and he was looking forward to moving in with Waesche, she said.
"He was doing wonderful," she said. "He was bringing his life back up."
His mother said she didn't know of any drug addiction, although she knew he drank. At one point, Boudreau told her he'd been prescribed Fentanyl for pain after he injured his arm, she said.
Irene Boudreau said her son told her he was owed some money by his employer at Dream Hall; Habib also said Boudreau told him a couple of times that he had not been paid.
Echevarria said Boudreau was put on payroll in October. He gave the Daily Herald a copy of a payroll stub from October stating Boudreau made $10 per hour, and copies of three checks, one from March and two from April, cashed by Boudreau.
No matter any money issues, Boudreau was happy working and living at Dream Hall, his mother said. "He really loved doing it and he said they were so kind."
Boudreau's family spread his ashes July 20 at Westminster Ponds in London, Ontario, where Boudreau and his brother loved to go fishing when they were little, his mother said. "I thought at first, 'Did I fail him?' But I couldn't help him from here ... I did what I could for him," she said.
That's how his Dream Hall "family" feels, too. "If I had to do it again, I would do it the same way," Waesche said. "He was a great guy."
• Daily Herald staff writers Harry Hitzeman and Barbara Vitello contributed to this report.