Celebrating 20 Years of IOCP’s Sleep Out

As Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners’ annual Sleep Out gears up for its 20th year, we take a look at the hard-working personalities behind this volunteer-led fight against homelessness.

In 1996, Wayzata businessman Bob Fisher had an idea: What if he slept out in the cold, like hundreds of homeless Minnesotans do each night, to raise money to buy Thanksgiving dinners for 100 families in need? Fisher’s success ($10,000 raised that first year) led him to another idea: What if, in teaming up with Interfaith Outreach & Community Partners (IOCP), future “sleep outs” could address a range of needs of IOCP clients, like housing, food, transportation, child care and jobs—and simultaneously raise awareness of homelessness in our suburban communities?

Bob Fisher
Semi-retired former owner of Bob’s Shoe Repair in Wayzata

Affiliation with Sleep Out:
Years involved: All 20
Most poignant Sleep Out moment: “There are so many … The night a group of sixth-graders from Holy Name school handed me a check for $30,000 that they had raised made me cry. The family that came into the shop one time and had me come out so they could introduce me to their kids and tell them about the Sleep Out and then had the kids give me a check for $1,000. The time people came to Sleep Out for me when I was sick. I probably could think of 1,000 others, but I will leave it at that. I have been blessed by the Sleep Out and following God’s call to do it in the first place.”

Now in its 20th year, the Sleep Out is IOCP’s largest annual fundraising campaign—in 2014 alone, it raised more than $2 million. Activities have branched out from donor-sponsored sleeping out—in cars, boxes and tents, in schools, parks and churches—to walk-a-thons and soup cook-offs.

This month, we are proud to present to you seven “faces of the Sleep Out.” Meet these committed volunteers, and find out how you can participate in this year’s activities.

Sandy Ohlsson
Retired vice president of human resources from General Mills

Affiliation with Sleep Out: Led partnership of Sleep Out initiatives between IOCP and General Mills; hosted Sleep Out events for friends and neighbors at home or IOCP headquarters; served on various committees to help generate ideas for Sleep Out activities
Years involved: 10
Most poignant Sleep Out moment: “One of the first years that we slept out … It was one of the coldest nights of late November/early December. I believe it was minus-7 degrees in the morning hours when we got up … We had so many clothes and blankets on top of us to stay warm, we could hardly move. It was a very humbling experience and made us all truly grateful for the things we take for granted every day—a comfortable bed and a warm home.”

Zach Verbick

Mechanical engineer and project manager

Affiliation with Sleep Out:
Was involved through my Boy Scout Troop 570 and followed in the footsteps of older brother, Collin Verbick. For four years he slept out every night.
Years involved: 7
Most poignant Sleep Out moment: “For the most part, Sleep Outs were pretty uneventful aside from the occasional snowstorm that walled you into your tent. With the proper gear, it’s really no different from sleeping in your bed. The thing is, when people lose their homes, they don’t have that kind of gear.

For those considering doing the Sleep Out: Snow is better than rain, and cardboard gets wet; always pee before you get into your box or tent; keep your water bottle in your bag so it won’t freeze.”

Mark Scheidhauer
Vice president, affluent segment leader for Wells Fargo

Affiliation with Sleep Out: Jim Fox and I always have organized a group of people to raise funds and sleep out in front of the Wells Fargo bank.
Years involved: 20. “I have been involved since the IOCP and ‘Shoe Bob’ started the Sleep Out.”
Most poignant Sleep Out moment: “I think it was the year it snowed. We stayed by our fire and had a good time. I think we got 6 inches and had to clean the tents off so they didn’t fall in!”

Jeanne Rosengren

Financial advisor at Merrill Lynch

Affiliation with Sleep Out:
Helped to coordinate the Holy Name School sixth-grade Sleep Out when her kids were in grade school; also helped coordinate a “Battle of the Brokerage Firms” sleep out in 2004
Years involved: 11
Most poignant Sleep Out moment: “We hosted the Holy Name sixth-grade Sleep Out in our back yard. We had the Holy Name teen band play (it was early December, and it was cold!) and had Deacon Sam Catapano lead a prayer service before the kids crawled into their tents. It was a great night of fellowship and we raised a lot of money for a great cause.”

Elizabeth Guest
Sales associate with Cargill; Pampered Chef independent consultant

Affiliation with Sleep Out: Largest fundraiser in year 2000’s Greenwood and Gleason Lake Home Base program, with more than $1,500 (as a fourth-grader); organized a Sleep Out in Hamel with the Lions Club and participated through the years; team captain with Cargill’s team
Years involved: 15
Most poignant Sleep Out moment: “The first time I met Bob and LaDonna [in 2000]: I was brought up to the front of the group at my home base Sleep Out to announce how much I had raised, and met two people who would change my life forever. I respected their mission, and they became my heroes.”

Miles Cady

Program supervisor/instructor Gleason Lake Home Base

Affiliation with Sleep Out: Led a group of 30–40 fourth- and fifth-graders in a Sleep Out curriculum and fundraising for IOCP for 13 years
Years Involved: 17
Most poignant Sleep Out moment: “We used to sleep out at the Wayzata Fire Station … It was subzero outside with a stiff breeze. While talking with [visitors], the box I was going to sleep in caught on fire as it was too close to our fire pit. Leaving me truly homeless for the night. I spent the night huddling by the fire, trying to stay warm.”

Get Involved
Sleep Out events for 2015 start soon!

On Saturday, November 7, consider participating in IOCP’s World’s Greatest Sleep Out. “We’re encouraging everyone to sleep out wherever they are, and we’re going to have a Campaign Central to keep everyone informed as to who is involved and where,” says Jill Kohler, IOCP development director. The hope, she says, is that people will collect pledges and donate them at the next big Sleep Out event, the Give to the Max Day Sleep Out Rally on November 12. On this date, from 4:30 to 9 p.m., all are invited to the Lunds Kitchen in Wayzata, where, through a series of interactive service and learning stations, they can explore IOCP service areas of housing, food, transportation, child care and employment. Businesses, churches and civic groups can get in on the act: IOCP is looking for 20 sponsors for 20 days to give $2,020 to IOCP’s Sleep Out 20th Anniversary Campaign.

Look for updates to these 2015 Sleep Out events at iocp.org/sleepout. You can also find many informative fact sheets about the IOCP Sleep Out at this website.