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Jamming for Jim: MillerFest to become an annual Bemidji tradition; this year’s event to benefit homeless

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BEMIDJI -- Jim and Kristi Miller made beautiful music together for 39 years. After Jim passed away in the summer of 2013, Kristi decided the music must go on so in place of a funeral, she created MillerFest.

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The second annual MillerFest will be held at Brigid’s Pub downtown Bemidji on Sunday. Jim Miller, originally from Brainerd, was an accomplished musician and writer. He and Kristi bought Brigid’s Pub in Bemidji in 2012. Jim played guitar, fiddle, mandolin and slide guitar for Blew Monday.

“There are enough people who knew and loved Jim to keep MillerFest going,” Miller said. “People get a kick out of hearing Jim’s songs by people that aren’t Jim.”

Miller said their son Amos will be playing some of Jim’s original tunes on Sunday.

Proceeds from each MillerFest will be donated to a local charity or non-profit each year, Miller said. This year, the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless will benefit.

“Jim was always concerned about issues like homelessness, war and local things,” Miller said. “So I thought, I can make this into more than a remember Jim festival.”

A place to stay

The Nameless Coalition for the Homeless started as a group of about a dozen concerned citizens in October. Miller said the board is down to six members who are committed to getting a shelter in place for this winter.

“The energy is there, we’re all committed. The assumption is we can land on a place and make it happen,” Miller said.

Center City Housing out of Duluth is looking at creating sustainable housing in the Bemidji area but those plans, if they come to fruition, may take up to five years. CCH began a needs assessment study last fall and presented information to the coalition and community members in Bemidji in May. CCH’s study validated Bemidji’s need for sustainable housing for chronic inebriates.

The coalition is looking at solution before the snow falls and temperatures start dropping this year.

“It’s no frills at this point, no chemical dependence treatment option,” Miller said. “They just need a warm, safe place and a bed.”

The need is primarily for single males and chronic inebriates who are not able to get into shelters in the area because of regulations preventing use of alcohol or drugs and preference given to women and children.

Peoples Church was part of the launch of the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless. The church will allow men and those who have been under the influence to seek shelter as long as they do not cause a disturbance, but the church is limited in size.

“I really commend Bob Kelly for what he’s doing at Peoples Church,” Miller said. “It’s easy turn your head away and not look because there are so many issues. This is just one of them.”

The Nameless Coalition’s Stop Gap Committee will be presenting information about the coalition’s efforts and goals during MillerFest. Miller said the committee is planning to establish a fund with the Northwest Minnesota Foundation. The Nameless Coalition for the Homeless is working to obtain nonprofit status.

MillerFest will begin at 2 p.m. with live music followed by a buffet at 5 p.m. (Adults: $10, children 12 and younger $7). Donations to the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless will also be accepted.

The Nameless Coalition for the Homeless meets every other Monday at 2 p.m. at Brigid’s Pub, 317 Beltrami Ave. NW in Bemidji. People interested in contributing to the cause or learning more are welcome to attend. Enter through the back door since Brigid’s opens at 4 p.m. Mondays. The pub will now be closed on Sundays for the season.

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Crystal Dey
Crystal Dey covers crime, courts, tribal relations and social issues for The Bemidji Pioneer in Bemidji, Minnesota. Originally from Minnesota’s Iron Range, Dey has worked for the Echo Press in Alexandria, Minnesota, The Forum in Fargo, North Dakota, The Tampa Tribune in Tampa, Florida, the Hartford Courant in Hartford and West Hartford News in West Hartford, Connecticut. Dey studied Mass Communications at Minnesota State University Moorhead with an emphasis in Online Journalism. Follow Crystal Dey on Twitter @Crystal_Dey.
(218) 333-9200 x343
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