By Linda Scherer
WINSTED, MN Bob Fisher, who is promoting his new book, “Shoe Bob Heart and Soul,” recalls more than 40 years ago, back to his high school days, when he spent time in Winsted doing lots of dancing at the Blue Note Ballroom on Saturday nights.
“It was one of the happening places and a lot of the friends that I used to like to hang around with, that is where they wound up,” Fisher said. “It was just so much fun.”
Fisher’s family eventually moved to Winsted in 1968.
Today, he owns a busy shoe repair shop in Wayzata where he is known to many as Shoe Bob.
Because of the media, his name is becoming more and more familiar outside of Wayzata, too.
Fisher is the guy who has helped the homeless in Wayzata by camping outdoors in his front yard in the winter a number of days a year, for 13 years, raising more than $10 million for the cause.
Just since June, he was featured in the Minneapolis Star Tribune and was interviewed by KARE 11’s Diana Pierce for his latest endeavor, which is a book being co-authored with Terry Esau telling the Shoe Bob inspirational story of how one person can make a difference; encouraging others to do the same.
What is really making headlines is how Fisher plans to raise the $60,000 needed by the end of this month to publish his book.
He is selling his book one word at a time a word ($1 each), a sentence ($10 each), a paragraph ($50 each), a page ($250 each), and a chapter ($2,500 each).
Fisher believes in incorporating as many people as he is able to get the message out.
By allowing people to contribute to the book’s publication, it is giving everyone an opportunity to make a difference by being a part of the book, according to Fisher.
A total of $8,000 has already been raised and although there is only one week to go until the end of the month, Fisher seems confident the money will come in.
Everyone who contributes to the book’s publication will have their name listed in the addendum and will get updates on the book’s status, which is to be published by the end of the year.
Fisher’s goal is to take his campaign to another level using profits from the book to give him the freedom to travel to speak at schools and church groups throughout the state and then, throughout the US.
His message would be directed to youth telling them, “They can be difference makers. They can be philanthropists and make these things happen, even if they have nothing,” Fisher said. “I want them to see they can do anything.”
All of this, Fisher is hoping, will lead to his dream a nationwide sleepout.
“There is not a reason why we can’t do a nationwide sleepout. It has been very successful here,” Fisher said.
“Say, we use the Boy Scouts of America all over the US and they could bring their buddies and their parents. It could be a 4 or 5 million (people) sleepout and we could raise $40 million or $50 million in just one night for all of the local homeless shelters around.”
Fisher’s campaign to help the homeless began 13 years ago when he decided to prove to himself he could be a winter camper.
“I have never done cold very well, so I decided that I needed to overcome that,” Fisher said.
It is important to Fisher for people to know that he had never set out to understand the homeless plight by sleeping in a tent.
He was not even aware there were homeless or needy people in his area when he planned his winter campout.
“That very first night out there, it was about 2 a.m. in the morning, and the first thing I found out was that I was claustrophobic. I really didn’t know that until I zipped myself into a mummy bag,” Fisher said.
But he had made up his mind he was going to stay out all night. As he laid there, freezing and unable to sleep, he said God spoke to him.
“It wasn’t like I heard words, but I got this thought in my head,” Fisher said. “‘This is a good idea what you’re doing, but move the tent to the front yard and do something for the needy people in Wayzata,’” Fisher recalled.
So the next day, about two weeks before Thanksgiving, Fisher came home from work as usual, but prepared for a second night in his tent, first moving his tent to the front yard.
“I came up with the idea that I would stay out in the tent every night until I raised enough money for 100 hot holiday meals for needy families in the area,” which he estimated to be a total of $7,000.
Within two weeks, Fisher had raised his $7,000 and moved back in to his house, but the money still kept coming in.
“It was amazing.”
“People gave me all the money right here at the shop. I wasn’t associated with any organization or anything. I had a little Tupperware container I put the money in and within about two weeks, I had $10,000.”
Fisher had help getting the word out through his shoe shop customers, and WCCO radio’s Dark Star, who had heard about it and announced it on the radio, plus donated $500 to the cause which Star called “a cool idea.”
With the money in hand, Fisher headed across the street to a nonprofit organization, Interfaith Outreach, and handed them the money. At the time, he was feeling like he was going to put the organization out of business because there wasn’t anything left for them to do.
“It was incredibly naive on my part,” Fisher said. “I was feeling pretty good about myself. I look back at how ignorant I was.”
It was at Interfaith Outreach Fisher learned about the plight of the homeless. He was asked, “What good would a hot holiday meal do for a family of four sleeping in their car?”
Fisher was amazed. At first, he couldn’t believe that they meant homeless people in Wayzata.
The nonprofit organization asked Fisher if he would try the same fundraiser next year, but focus it on affordable housing and the homeless, and he agreed.
Fisher set his goal the second year at $20,000.
He recalls going to one of his friends, telling him, “This sucks. I don’t like sleeping in my tent. This is crazy. I don’t want to do this any more.”
At the time Fisher had been out in his tent, winter camping, for 19 days.
However, when the money came into the shop and was counted, Fisher had surpassed his goal bringing in $36,000.
“Little kids would come to me with their piggy banks, and said they wanted to give it to the sleepout,” Fisher said. “There were so many stories of people that gave from their hearts.”
For four years in a row, about two weeks before Thanksgiving, Fisher prepared for his sleepout and would set a goal. Whatever the goal was, Fisher collected almost double.
“They would say, ‘now let’s see what that crazy shoe repair guy is going to do.’ It started growing and growing,” Fisher said.
After the fourth year, he began working with Outreach, letting them set the goal according to the organization’s needs.
“Every year when we start the sleepout now, we have hundreds and hundreds of kids sleeping out the first few days,” Fisher said.
Fisher can hardly wait to see the success Wayzata has in other communities.
He sees his book as a “platform” to move on to other communities. It would enable him to speak to groups all around the area and outside of the state and share his ideas on making a difference.
“It will get me into communities where I can start showing the youth what we have already done and let them know they can do it, too.”
Fisher is married to Terrisa and has three children: Jeremy, Jenny, and Jessica.
“Jenny will be giving me my sixth grandchild any day,” Fisher proudly said.