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Our Story


Happy Dancing Turtle is a nonprofit organization that is home-based in Pine River, MN with a hub in the Driftless Region of MN/WI. We are dedicated to growing good stewards of the planet by providing education, programs, and experiences for youth and adults that inspire wonder and empower change. 

How We Got Our Name

"Happy Dancing Turtle is sort of a thank you gift to the universe for guiding our path."

- Paul Hunt, Founder

In the summer of 1994, Lynn and I were looking for a new house. It had to be special. After going broke a few times we had learned the hard way that it is important for us to live where we work. We had been working our tiny little electronic design business for almost ten years. Take home pay had finally crept above minimum wage and we were starting to grow.

After designing over 300 products (each one a learning experience), job number 333 was the world’s slowest modem, designed to automatically read electric meters. It was slow, steady, trustworthy, and it fit under the shell of the meters, so we named it the Turtle.

The Turtle had serious market potential. We had a lot of work to do and we needed space to work in. Every time we tried to buy a piece of real estate it didn’t work. Generally the bank would turn us down or our home business didn’t fit zoning regulations. One day a realtor was showing us a home and shop combo that didn’t feel right. After we said “no”, he said he knew of a place that was WAY too big for us, but it was in the neighborhood. We might as well look at it.

It was a big cabinet shop with a big house next door. Instantly we felt that this was the right place. Just one problem; the price tag was ten times higher than our current house, and at least three times higher than we could possibly afford.

I didn’t sleep well that night. The overpowering feeling that this was the right place was battling in my gut with the hard lessons we had learned about being fiscally conservative. I tossed and turned all night, trying to see someway to make it work financially, trying to decide if we should take this quantum leap. Finally, I got so weary that I said "God, just show me a sign so I can decide and get some sleep!"

I opened my eyes, and there, in silhouette against the dark pink of the pre dawn sky, was a happy dancing turtle. I woke Lynn up and asked “Do you see what I see?” She did.

It was our window fan. The blade was angled and lit in just the perfect way that we both clearly saw the same Happy Dancing Turtle. We both decided that if we ask for a sign regarding growing the turtle business, and instantly see something as clear as that, we had better not ignore it. The next day we signed the papers.

The financing sailed through without any problems. The first winter, there were only six of us huddled in a little corner of this monstrous building. The business grew fast. A year later we were adding on, and adding on again, and then building more buildings. Many times I was thankful that we had a beautiful location we could grow in.

When we started making money, Lynn and I decided that we should put a large percentage of our assets into a non profit organization to help the earth. It was easy to name it in honor of our guiding spirit, the Happy Dancing Turtle.

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Our Commitment to Community

Happy Dancing Turtle is dedicated to growing good stewards of the planet for the benefit of generations to come. As in nature, diversity is integral to thriving environments. We recognize the need for and encourage the expression of diverse voices, viewpoints, and experiences in creating just, sustainable, and flourishing communities. As individual humans, as an organization, and as community members locally and globally we are committed to listening, learning, growing, and cultivating an equitable future for all.

Meet the Team

Happy Dancing Turtle is powered by a passionate, eco-focused team that loves to educate and empower those around them.

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