Award winners Gerrell Aldridge (Ambassador of the Year), Angela Hobby (Young Professional of the Year), Chuck and Susan Steel (BIG Thinker Award) Laura Perlman for Astro Exterminating Services (Small Business of the Year) and the team at Newbern Family Dental Practice (Members’ Choice Award) are shown at the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce Choice Awards Thursday.

At the Fifth Annual Chamber Choice Awards Thursday night, members of the Valdosta-Lowndes Chamber of Commerce came together to celebrate fellow members.

Hosted by Citizens Community Bank at the James H. Rainwater Conference Center, Masters of Ceremony Rusty Simmons and Jordan Turman presented five awards throughout the night: Ambassador of the Year, Young Professional of the Year, Small Business of the Year, Members’ Choice Award and the Big Thinker Award.

The first award of the evening, Ambassador of the Year, serves to honor the chamber member who attended the most chamber events throughout the year. With almost 50 hours of volunteered time and 2,150 points earned with the chamber, the award went to Gerrell Aldridge with New Hire Solutions.

In his acceptance speech, Aldridge thanked his boss at New Hire for allowing him “to donate so much time to the chamber.”

The night’s second award, Young Professional of the Year, serves to highlight a young professional who has made a quantifiable difference on her or his employer’s bottom line. 18 finalists were nominated by their business, but it was Wiregrass Georgia Technical College’s Angela Hobby who walked away with the award, having improved WTC’s bottom line by $300,000.

The Members’ Choice Award was voted on by chamber members. After the 2,200 votes were cast, it was Newbern Family Dental Practice which accepted the award.

“Any success we have we owe to all of our staff,” said Jeff Newbern, a partner at Newbern Family Dental Practice.

The Small Business of the Year award recognizes an innovative small business with no more than 100 employees that exemplifies growth and stability in the business community.

After being started in 1969 with two employees and growing to where it is today with 39, Astro Exterminating Services won the award. Laura Perlman, accepting the award for Astro, thanked the chamber, their loyal customers and staff, and her father, who started Astro.

In the final award of the night, the BIG Thinker Award, given each year to a self-made and successful entrepreneur who cares for and gives back to their community, was awarded to Chuck and Susan Steel with Steel’s Jewelry.

In a video presentation, Chuck and Susan recounted the beginning of Steel’s Jewelry and how it has changed throughout the years. “We’re very thankful for the opportunities we’ve had,” said Susan. “We’ve been blessed to pay it forward.”

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