The Crowd: David Wetzel to take the helm of Serving People in Need

The Wetzel family gathers with their pet dog.
(Courtesy of Serving People in Need)

Most men reaching midlife after rising through the ranks of the business world and reaching success in both career and personal life seek refuge on a golf course, tennis court or, if fortunate enough, a white sand beach on an island in the middle of a warm blue ocean.

David Wetzel, retiring president of Farmer Boys Restaurants, is not among those men. Instead, the lifelong Orange County resident with a bachelor’s degree from Redlands University and an MBA from Chapman University, reached a tipping point upon the college graduation of the youngest of four children he and his wife Kathleen raised.

“It was time for an intentional life change,” Wetzel said. “Over many years of running restaurants I witnessed people facing the most serious challenges of homelessness, hunger and addiction coming into our restaurants seeking help. So many had not had a meal in days. I saw this every day. Sadly, walking on the sidewalk, I walked past the same people struggling daily.”


With Kathleen’s blessing, Wetzel said farewell to overseeing dining rooms and drive-throughs at Farmer Boys, and with the additional support of the team he left behind, enrolled in a yearlong course of study at UC Irvine on nonprofit management and leadership.

His goal was to help others by supporting a community nonprofit serving the most vulnerable of O.C. people, like so many he had come to know over the years who were living on the streets outside of his restaurants.

“One man I came to know lived under the 91 Freeway overpass near our main office in Riverside,” Wetzel recalled. “I saw him every day for over three years, rain or shine, under a sleeping bag in the same spot. To me this is unconscionable in our time, and with all we have and can accomplish to help those in need.”

Then Wetzel discovered Serving People In Need (SPIN), the Costa Mesa-based agency placing unhoused, or those on the cusp of becoming unhoused, into permanent housing. In addition to SPIN’s primary mission, case workers at SPIN follow up with clients on matters specific to individual challenges with employment, childcare, health and wellness, and more.

Wetzel is taking the helm of SPIN, following in the leadership role established over more than three decades by the late Jean Wegener, its former executive director. Diving in, he will manage and expand a multimillion-dollar annual fundraising effort, and a staff of caregivers, caseworkers and community volunteers who share the inspiration and motivation to make a difference for a population in ever-expanding need in O.C.

David Wetzel is the new executive director of Costa Mesa nonprofit Serving People in Need.
David Wetzel is the new executive director of Costa Mesa nonprofit Serving People in Need.
(Courtesy of Serving People in Need)

Previously, SPIN’s new executive director served a volunteer church-based organization called Corazon, with the mission of building homes for the neediest in Mexico.

“We build a house in a day,” Wetzel reported. “It’s not large; very basic, four walls, two windows, a door, and a roof. Up at 4 a.m., we work hard all day to complete the project. By sunset we hand over a key to the new occupants and literally experience a life transformation. Talk about an emotional moment.”

Wetzel comes to SPIN with that same kind of personal connection to service. He says leading SPIN will not be a job but rather a calling, an intentional career change in order to be a part of the solution in helping to address a glaring, urgent and growing need in our community.

“We must seek to understand the life challenges facing each person uniquely within the scope of an agency whose mission is to turn around lives and preserve families, he said. “There are many parts to solving the obstacles facing the unhoused. The equation often faces bureaucratic challenges, and a blanket approach clearly does not work. We need to understand individual circumstances and provide specific solutions for people dealing with matters of life crisis.”

Wetzel joins SPIN as its first major fundraising campaign launches April 24 with the “Help Them Home” outreach working in conjunction with the Orange County Community Foundation.

Wetzel can be reached at To learn more about the work of SPIN, visit