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Hunts receive 2013 Award in Philanthropy

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Paul and Lynn Hunt will receive the Brainerd Lakes Area Community Foundation’s (BLACF) 2013 Award in Philanthropy on Aug. 1, but they don’t believe that giving is limited to a dollar amount. They say that time is equally as valuable as money.

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“Your true wealth is what you do to help others, the community you build,” Lynn said.

The Hunts, of Pine River, will be honored with the award at the BLACF’s annual dinner  Thursday, Aug. 1, an event that’s open to the public.

The Hunts are the founders of Happy Dancing Turtle, perhaps the most well-known of their philanthropic activities. Happy Dancing Turtle, formally called the Resilient Living Council, is focused on promoting sustainability.

They founded the non-profit at the same time as they founded Hunt Utilities Group, a company also focused on sustainability and currently researching sustainable energy. They were able to start both after selling Hunt Technologies, a company that grew out of the Hunts’ basement in Brainerd.

“When we sold Hunt Technologies, we had enough income and we made a choice to start a non-profit,” Lynn said.

Hunt Utilities Group and Happy Dancing Turtle share a campus in Pine River. While Happy Dancing Turtle hosts Eco Camps for kids, teaching gardening, sustainability and more, Hunt Utilites Group is in the laboratory building next door, researching cold fusion.

Happy Dancing Turtle has ties with such programs as the Pine River Dam Park, the community garden, the Back to Basics festival each January and the Pine River Revitalization committee, among others.

But the Hunts’ philanthropy isn’t limited to Happy Dancing Turtle. They also support scholarship programs at schools in the state and neighboring states, including the University of Minnesota at Duluth, Central Lakes College, Bemidji State University, North Dakota State University and others.

Lynn believes strongly in education. Paul said his take on education isn’t quite boiled down to a single opinion. He said that while he believes education is good for an individual, the education system is flawed.

Still, the Hunts not only support scholarships at those schools listed, but also for their employees and employees’ children.

This list goes on for the Hunts’ philanthropy. They’ve supported efforts at Essentia Health to distribute heart defibrillators and teach people how to use them, supported Rotary at the local level and beyond, supported the BLACF and Lakeland Television.

Lynn said the two like to help in the places where their hearts are, “sometimes more than we should.”

“To the point,” Paul said, “where it challenges the viability of our research.”

Paul refers to the research Hunt Utilities Group is pursuing on cold fusion, which he hopes will pan out into a sustainable form of energy. The two said they reserve a percentage of their income for giving.

Lynn said they were surprised to learn of the 2013 Philanthropy Award. The Hunts’ philosophy on philanthropy is to never shy away from giving simply because you don’t have money.

“Either you have time or money,” Lynn said. “Don’t be afraid to give time if you don’t have money.

“It’s the giving back, supporting society, trying to find the right way for you — everyone has their own way,” Lynn said. “Even a person with no work, if they can go volunteer, they can write that down (on a resume), get experience and make connections.”

Paul encouraged giving back by sitting on the board of a non-profit, or simply volunteering wherever one can. He encourages his employees to volunteer because of how much they learn and the connections they make.

Lynn also commented that children see when their parents are giving their efforts, whether that’s time or money.

“There are so many ways for people to learn and serve,” Lynn said.

The BLACF dinner where the Hunts will be honored is open to public. Tickets are $40 and can be purchased online by clicking “events” at communitygiving.org.

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