Column: The Crowd: ‘Hamilton’ cast and crew prepare meals for O.C. needy


The Broadway sensation “Hamilton” captivated the O.C. community attending shows at Segerstrom Center for the Arts with a sold-out run that had audiences on their feet cheering at each performance.

On Thursday morning of the final week of the show’s run, actors Marcus Choi (George Washington) and Hercules Mulligan (James Madison), along with some 15 additional cast and crew members arrived at Newport’s Our Lady Queen of Angels Catholic Church to donate their time in support of a local charitable non-profit known as SPIN (Serving People In Need).

Every Thursday morning for more than three decades, SPIN volunteers led by Kim Frazier come together to prepare hundreds of meals to be distributed to the poor and homeless in regions of Orange County where need is apparent. On this particular Thursday, the “Hamilton” cast became the volunteers making turkey and cheese sandwiches, bagging cookies, fruit, chips and licorice in hundreds of brown paper bags for the weekly Thursday night delivery to neighborhoods in north, central and south county.

The ”Hamilton” cast and crew took culinary instruction from Frazier and longtime SPIN volunteer Ruth Fornez, who has shown up at the church kitchen on Thursday mornings for more than 20 years, and Ashley Blua, another longtime SPIN volunteer.

Tyler McKenzie, heading up the “Hamilton” contingent, welcomed the sandwich makers/actors and crew including company manager Susan Brumley and production stage manager Anna Kaltenbach. Even the show’s physical therapist Sarah Schobber was front and center for SPIN.

From the “Hamilton” orchestra, violinist Sarah Haines joined singers and dancers Kristen Hoagland, Desmond Sean Ellington, Aaron Albano, McKenzie as well as Emily Jenda who plays one of the Schuyler sisters. Stephen Hernandez (George Eacker) spread mustard on bread with Rolando Linares, stage manager and electrician Nicole Jaegar.

Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr had to rehearse but sent their regards.

The effort is part of the commitment of the “Hamilton” troupe to connect with the national mission of “Broadway Serves,” a charitable wing of the overall Broadway family reaching out to people in need across the nation in the cities and towns where road shows make their stops on national tours.

They do this quietly, without publicity or media following. Purely a hands-on, person-to-person act of kindness. In the O.C., the work of SPIN met that crucial criteria.

For over three decades, SPIN, led by executive director Jean Wegener and associate Frazier handling special events and volunteer services, has also quietly and without fanfare managed to feed the needy on the street. The organization houses homeless families with children in permanent housing, offers job counseling, credit counseling, health resources, wardrobes and so much more on a budget where some 91% of every dollar raised goes directly to the cause with overhead expense one of the smallest percentages of any nonprofit in the region.

Donors know where their money lands.

Last year, SPIN provided permanent housing for 516 people, 196 adults and 324 children and overall the organization enjoyed a more than 90% success rate with clients turning their lives around long-term.

Wegener, Frazier and team including major support from dedicated donors such as Keith and Florence Smith, Dick and Kim Crawford, Trish O’Donnell, Frank and Peggy Listi, Joe and Heidi Heffington, Sharad Bansal and Apporva Jha, Mel and Ed Fitch, the Frome family, Karen and Dick Nichol, are planning their annual SPIN fundraising gala dinner for 2018 this fall to be held at the posh Newport Beach Country Club.

The Oct. 5 event will be billed as “Oktoberfest” and will feature comedy star Bobby Collins, direct from Jimmy Fallon’s “The Tonight Show,” to send the crowd roaring into the proper spirit to fund the needs of SPIN for another season in the O.C.

Check out the work of SPIN at

B.W. COOK is editor of the Bay Window, the official publication of the Balboa Bay Club in Newport Beach.