Ever since Haleigh McKenzie was in elementary school, she has felt her purpose in life is to help and serve others.

“Whatever career I choose and whatever I end up doing in my life, if I’ve given back and I’ve helped change the world in even the smallest of ways, I will be truly happy,” said McKenzie.

The second-year police foundations student was one of five notable award recipients at the AC Hub’s Volunteer Gala on March 23 in the Algonquin Commons Theatre.

“It feels amazing to be one of the people recognized,” said McKenzie, adding how special it was to have volunteers, who do not usually expect anything in return for their work, be acknowledged for what they do. The other recipients were Lisa Quesnel, Jaykumar Ahir, Shayvard Asvar and Merissa Lee Reed.

The gala was the sixth annual event of its kind. Each year, students from the various Algonquin campuses are acknowledged for their volunteer work.

“The goal of this event is to say thank you to all of Algonquin College’s volunteers,” Ben Dinh, events officer for the AC Hub, told the Times. “These volunteers truly make the college proud juggling their academics, jobs and social life to give back to the community.”

The guests were served a meal by Food Services during the semi-formal event. They were entertained by a choral group, as well as a string duo during their fine dining.

“The sound and atmosphere of this unique event was something we think everyone should witness one day in the theatre,” said Dinh, adding that while this was the first time the meal was served in the theatre for the gala, it will not be the last.

Along with the fine dining and awards ceremony, the evening’s attendees were treated to speeches by Laura Stanbra, vice-president of Student Services and Mark Taylor, deputy mayor for the City of Ottawa.

Taylor highlighted the necessity of volunteers at Algonquin and the greater communities at large. He outlined the essential parts of every great volunteer effort, which included dedication, passion and enthusiasm.

“We are here for each other,” said Taylor. “If we’re not, then what’s the point? So, remember that being connected to other people through the act of volunteerism is one of the most sacred trusts you can have with another human being.”

The importance and necessity of volunteerism were repeatedly noted during the course of the evening and the volunteers were encouraged to continue the work they do.

“(Volunteerism) is a great way to build transferable skills and challenge yourself all while contributing to a common goal of creating positive change,” Rebecca Sun, co-curricular record and volunteerism coordinator told the Times following the event.

Your time as a student is limited. Seize the moment and get involved in a sport, student club, or volunteering opportunity. This is the time for self-exploration and discovering your passions.”