When the nominees were announced for the 2018 Business of the Year, JP Hulgan was sure his business wouldn't receive the final award.

“When my secretary read off the list, I'm like 'I don't need to worry about making a speech. I'm not gonna beat those guys,” Owner JP Hulgan said after the Perry Chamber of Commerce's annual dinner on Tuesday, April 2 at La Poste.

Hulgan Plumbing and Heating was up against Backwards Boutique and Backwards Properties, Betsy Peterson Designs, Bits of Technology and Wireless Internet, Hotel Pattee, El Tren, Perry Community School District, Perry Perk and the Perry Chief.

So Hulgan was surprised when his business was announced as the 2018 award recipient. Still, he said the award is a “great honor.”

“There's so many great things going on in Perry right now that to be chosen is awesome,” Hulgan said as another community member came up to congratulate him. “It's really pretty humbling.”

Hulgan Plumbing and Heating was nominated for “going the extra mile for their customers and providing round the clock service, as well as their many community sponsorships and donations.”

Hulgan credits the award to the customers in Perry who trust him for their heating, cooling and electrical needs.

“You can open the Yellow Pages and there are hundreds of choices, so to pick me means a lot. It's awesome,” he said.

He was joined by fellow award winners Misty VonBehren and Emily Leslie. VonBehren received the first-ever Ambassador of the Year Award, while Leslie was named the Jack Finneseth Memorial Volunteer of the Year.

The Ambassador of the Year Award was created because of the newly established Perry Chamber Ambassador program. The award honors an ambassador who showed dedication to the Perry Chamber throughout the past year in both attendance and volunteerism.

“(Misty) has gone above and beyond with countless volunteer hours on a number of occasions. BRR and Fourth of July parade line-up are just two of many,” a nomination letter said. “She's a great advocate for the chamber and the Perry community. Always positive, always helping to spread the word about what is going on in the community and always looking for ways to lend a hand.”

The Jack Finneseth Memorial Volunteer of the Year Award is given to an individual who captures the passion Finneseth had for volunteering.

A nomination letter said that Leslie has been involved in numerous activities in Perry before and after her new business, Backwards Boutique, opened this past year.

“Her support of the chamber during farmers market, the numerous ribbon cuttings, charity functions and town celebrations make her invaluable to what our community stands for, just like Jack Finneseth,” the letter continued.

“Her new business is a testament to her continuous hardwork and dedication to anything she goes after. She will continue to bring value to our growing downtown for years to come. We hit the jackpot when the Leslies moved to Perry.”

Leslie felt “very blessed” as she held her award after the annual dinner was completed. She added that she couldn't give back without support from her family and the community.

“It's fun to volunteer when you know the people standing next to you and they're having fun too,” she said.

When the Leslies moved to town, they stayed busy with their family for the first six months. Leslie told the audience that they didn't start feeling a sense of community until they got involved. She added that they kept giving back because of many of those in the audience who were volunteering alongside them and encouraging them with a smile.

“I want to say thank you to all of you and to continue that spirit and that involvement, and the high-fives and the hugs and the elbows, to encourage everybody to keep volunteering and growing this community through what we can do,” Leslie said.

The annual dinner concluded with a live pie auction. Tom Burkgren led the crowd in bidding on various pies and desserts made by chamber businesses.

The proceeds from the live pie auction will go to the Fourth of July fireworks drive. A silent auction was also held this year to help raise funds for the drive.

Annual dinner participants could bid on items donated by Salvaged Soul, Perry Perk, Ben's Five and Dime, Swan Antics, Backwards Boutique, Harper Rose's Floral and Gifts, Mary Rose Collections and Betsy Peterson Designs.

Over $4,000 was raised for the Perry Chamber's Fourth of July fireworks drive.