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Charity Waits in the ‘Weeds’

Laguna Beach resident Scott Hays envisioned a company dedicated to the philosophy that all people have a story to share. Now, the story-telling skills he nurtured have blossomed into a marketing campaign tapped by hard-pressed non-profit groups around the county and nation to make a difference in the lives of those in need.

A veteran writer, college English instructor, and media consultant, Hays, 51, founded WeedPatch Productions in 2007 and drew inspiration from WeedPatch, the government camp in John Steinbeck’s novel, “The Grapes of Wrath.” There, protagonist Tom Joad and his family, migrant workers and homeless, find comfort and the chance for their children to grow up in a better world.

WeedPatch Production’s latest project, “Home Again,” a music-documentary, premiered last month at the Newport Coast home of Cindy and Ron McMackin at HomeAid OC’s Project Playhouse CharityAuction. The six-week long event raised $338,000 to support HomeAid OC’s mission to build and maintain dignified housing where homeless families can rebuild their lives.

Hays turned to long-time friend, Roger Harvey, a song-writer musician and a frequent volunteer for HomeAid’s Playhouse construction projects, to serve as his executive producer. Besides Harvey, other Laguna Beach locals also contributed. Musician Jason Feddy performed his original song, also titled “Home Again,” live at the dinner auction. Homeless advocate Faye Chapman created still photography used in the film.

“Home Again” will serve as a marketing and fund-raising tool for 20 HomeAid chapters in the U.S., as well as 25 local OC organizations, including Laura’s House, a battered woman’s shelter in Ladera Ranch, and Precious Life, a shelter for women in crisis pregnancies in Los Alamitos, explained Scott Larson, executive director of Irvine’s Home Aid OC.

“Scott Hays and his entire team always had great questions for us,” said Larson. “They delved into telling our story, not only from a professional perspective, but creatively, and in whom they selected for the ‘Home Again’ project. We couldn’t have been more blessed or hired a better team than WeedPatch, even though it was they who first pursued us.”

In 2008, with no experience in the music industry, besides playing guitar in a garage band as a teen, Hays produced “Shelter Me,” a 13-song CD compilation written and performed by homeless musicians to benefit Laguna Beach’s Friendship Shelter.

“I found it amazing and fulfilling to see Scott and WeedPatch bring the company’s brilliant, first out-of-the-box idea to high-caliber fruition,” said Mark Miller, Friendship Shelter’s program director. The CD “proved to be transformative because it connects with both psyche and soul on the issue of homelessness.”

The CD and accompanying documentary about its making were also produced at no charge to Friendship Shelter, said Hays, due to an unanticipated groundswell of support from volunteers and merchants such as Ivan Spiers, owner of Laguna’s Mozambique restaurant, who donated use of the in-house studio for the CD’s audio and recording production.

Each WeedPatch projects aims to engage people with a compelling story—musically, lyrically or visually – that makes an “emotional” connection with an organization and its services and a reason to provide financial support, Hays said. The outcome serves to generate community awareness and exposure for an organization and its supporters, he said. “Music shapes our lives and our world by unleashing our capacity for connection, compassion, and cooperation,” he added.

Larson is tickled to be the beneficiary of Hays’ gift of artistry and good will. “Everyone has talents and if they apply them, they’d be able to find some quick way to make a difference in their community and personal life,” he said.

In addition to writing his own music, Hays teaches weekdays at Orange Coast and Saddleback colleges, and UC Irvine’s extension, and often spends weekends working in the studio on WeedPatch projects. Asked about his determination to work for the homeless and those less fortunate, Hays simply said, “Why not?”

During this time of high unemployment, echoing the economic depression of the Dust Bowl era, it seems fitting that individuals and families in crisis might find some hope in a modern day WeedPatch.

Hays welcomes new projects. Further info is available at www.weedpatchrecordings.com.

Judy Lesko is a freelance writer who also works as a substitute teacher for the Irvine School District.

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