Small Requests--Lunkes Practice Kindness

 January 19, 2022

Seneca, the ancient Stoic philosopher, reminds us that every person we meet is an opportunity to help other people. In fact, helping those in need is a pillar of every major religion and philosophy. 

When Donna and Orvis Lunke received the first federal stimulus check in the early days of the pandemic, the Spring of 2020, Donna said, “We asked ourselves, what can we do good in the community with this?”

Orvis and Donna 

The answer was that they could share this money with folks in Cook County that have hit a bump in the road of one kind or another, and they called it Small Requests. 

Donna was raised in Cook County and has lived and worked here most of her life. Orvis spent his career with the Minnesota DNR here in the Arrowhead. Between them, they knew several folks struggling in one way or another, so they started with them, giving a small financial gift and a loving, supportive, handwritten note.

 ”That’s the way I grew up,” Donna said. “If there was a need, the neighbors all chipped in. That’s how we’ve always done.”

By the time a second stimulus check arrived, they had exhausted their own list of people who needed help, so Donna went on her FaceBook page and posted a simple message:

Do you know someone that has hit a bump in the road and could use a hand up from Small Requests?  Friends and neighbors know best.  Please PM (Private Message) only to keep it confidential and thanks for your help!

The online community responded, and each month since then the Lunkes have mailed out an average of 12 small gifts to those in need. Friends and neighbors of the Lunkes have given them financial donations to share in the effort. “We live in a good community where people care about each other,” Orvis said.

Donna and Orvis look at every request and decide which to fill and how. “Everybody’s bump in the road is different,” Donna said. “Every month it’s a different story.” 

No request is ignored, although priority is given any time to those who have a dire need. Donna added that 90-95% of recipients are nominated by someone else, less than one out of ten request help for themselves.

Recipients may get a check for $100, a gift card for gas or groceries, or some type of assistance with a special need. Each also receives a handwritten note of support and encouragement from Donna, along with a request to pass this good work forward. As a policy, recipients are not told who nominated them for a helping hand or who the other donors are. Typically each recipient receives help only once, with rare exceptions according to Donna.

“We never share donors' or recipients' names so we don’t embarrass anyone,” Donna said. But since getting started less than two years ago, Small Requests has passed on more than $17,000 and countless words of support and goodwill.

People helping each other is a long tradition on the Northshore. The Lunkes embody the best of that. “We are proud of the impact Small Requests has made for people,” Donna said. “That’s the bright spot.