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Pig Roast Fundraiser held to support The New Day Center in Bemidji

The Nameless Coalition for the Homeless hosted a pig roast fundraiser on Friday, June 10, to help raise money for some much-needed improvements to The New Day Center for the homeless.

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Sanford Health volunteers Kayla Winkler, center, and Sam Pogatchnik, right, serve attendees at a Pig Roast Fundraiser hosted by the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless on Friday, June 10, 2022, in Bemidji.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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BEMIDJI — A small crowd of people came together to support a good cause and enjoy some pulled pork sandwiches and freshly squeezed lemonade on Friday, June 10, as a part of a fundraiser hosted by the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless.

The pig roast fundraiser, held outside of The New Day Center in Bemidji, was organized to raise money for renovations and improvements to the building, which aims to provide a safe place for the unsheltered and homeless to stay during the day.

“This is a real spot where people can come have shelter, just a place to go,” said Carl Sewall, the site manager for The New Day Center. “This building is open to anybody who wants our services.”

Located in what used to be the Upper Mississippi Mental Health Center, the building was donated to the Nameless Coalition by Sanford Health in 2021.

The building and the lot surrounding it, however, need some improvements to better suit their new purpose. This includes repairing the roof, and adding showers, laundry facilities and a wheelchair lift to make the split-level entrance accessible.

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“(The building) is in really good shape, it’s just not up to code,” said Reed Olson, the executive director of the Nameless Coalition. “We’re still able to operate, just not as optimally as we would like.”

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Reed Olson prepares the pig at a Pig Roast Fundraiser hosted by the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless on Friday, June 10, 2022, in Bemidji.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Some of these renovations are covered by a $600,000 grant the coalition received in partnership with the city of Bemidji from the Department of Employment and Economic Development, but these funds won’t be able to cover everything the center needs.

“The funds that we got from DEED aren’t enough to do all the renovations,” Olson explained, citing some of the center’s needs that are ineligible for the grant, such as the parking lot and landscaping.

This led to the pig roast fundraiser being organized, which offered those who attended a delicious meal and good company in exchange for a small donation. It also allowed people to see where the money raised by the event will be going.

“The beauty of this fundraiser is we’re having it on our very decrepit parking lot,” Olson said, “so everyone will see we’re not joking when we say we need a new parking lot.”

Construction for these renovations could begin later this year, according to Olson.

“We’re hopeful that we’ll be able to do the renovations this year yet, but it may not occur until the spring and summer of 2023,” he said.

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From left: Mike Bredon and Steve Gullicksrud make fresh squeezed lemonade at a Pig Roast Fundraiser hosted by the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless on Friday, June 10, 2022, in Bemidji.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer
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Beltrami County Chief Deputy Sheriff Jarrett Walton visits with attendees at a Pig Roast Fundraiser hosted by the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless on Friday, June 10, 2022, in Bemidji.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

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An important cause

The New Day Center, and others like it, offer a different type of service to people experiencing homelessness than overnight shelters do, but one that is just as important.

“The overnight shelter saves lives, but the day center gets people into housing,” Olson said. “We’ve been able to move a lot of people from being unsheltered or homeless to living in more stable situations.”

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From left: Steve Gullicksrud and Mike Bredon stir up fresh kettle corn at a Pig Roast Fundraiser hosted by the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless on Friday, June 10, 2022, in Bemidji.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Since the center opened on Dec. 23, 2021, Olson guessed that it has already helped a few dozen people find stable housing.

A large part of the center’s success in this area has been providing a point of access between its guests and different services that specialize in housing assistance.

Knowledge about the center has also begun to spread, leading to more people using its services. March saw the center receive a record 68 guests.

“Now the service agencies can find their clients and our guests, their clients, can find their service providers,” Olson said. “That’s a really important piece, connecting people to resources to get people off the streets and into a better situation.”

The center can also serve as a mailing address for those who might not have one otherwise, eliminating a major barrier to finding housing or getting a state ID.

“We give people a mailing address so people can have their mail sent here,” Sewall explained. “That’s one service we provide that’s been really helpful to people already.”

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Carl Sewall stands inside the Day Center at a Pig Roast Fundraiser hosted by the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless on Friday, June 10, 2022, in Bemidji.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

With further funding, the center hopes to add more services, namely access to showers and laundry.

“We really need a place here with showers and laundry,” Sewall said. “We have people here that desperately need that service, it makes all the difference in the world to just have clean clothes.”

The center is also happy to accept certain types of donations, particularly things like hats, gloves, socks and large jackets, along with hygiene products like travel-sized toothpaste, Band-Aids and body wash.

There are some types of donations the center doesn’t accept. These include blankets, children’s items, and any food that is not shelf-stable or requires preparation.

“It could be really helpful if you can call ahead and ask what we need,” Sewall suggested. “We welcome donations, they just need to be useful.”

Olson discussed the need for these services in the community and the importance of the work done by the Nameless Coalition.

“It’s very much needed in the community,” Olson said. “What we do is we give people a safe place to be during the day.”

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Hunter Olson checks out the fresh kettle corn and visits with the cooks at a Pig Roast Fundraiser hosted by the Nameless Coalition for the Homeless on Friday, June 10, 2022, in Bemidji.
Maggi Fellerman / Bemidji Pioneer

Related Topics: HOMELESSNESS
Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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