Megan Koch is what we like to call an everyday hero - not the kind who does great deeds under the glare of the spotlight, but rather the kind who works quietly behind the scenes to make Brampton, Mississauga, and Caledon better places to live. She’s the kind of everyday hero needy kids can’t live without.

Every weekday by 6:30 a.m., Megan is at a United Way-supported breakfast program at Acorn Place - one of Peel’s at-risk communities and one of six supported by United Way’s Neighbourhood Development Strategy across the region. She’ll provide a healthy breakfast and a packed lunch for up to 50 hungry children who would otherwise go without. It’s the kind of program working to meet enormous need, but one that relies on resources that are being stretched thinner than ever.

Megan lives in Acorn Place herself and cares deeply for the children living in poverty here. It’s what moves her as a volunteer. I see these people on a day-to-day basis, Megan explains. I face the same challenges and if I can give back a little bit, that’s amazing. There’s so many youth that get into trouble. They’re so talented and smart and with a little bit of guidance they will shoot for the stars. I feel almost like they’re my own. Without the United Way, they won’t get that care and guidance.”

For Megan, two young sisters in particular personify just how much these programs can do to change the lives of kids in poverty. “They are the most amazing girls, Megan says. “I first met [the older sister, 12] in the breakfast club about four years ago. She was this shy little girl who would hardly speak. It was so amazing to see her come out of her shell. She started volunteering with the breakfast club with her younger sister. Sometimes they’re there before even I get there. Yes, they have a lot of difficulties [but] they want to do better in their life and give back to the community. They know they can’t have these programs without volunteers.”

The older of the two girls has since become a role model for local children, and this is helping her forge a new path for herself. She has kept all her volunteer recognition certificates and tells Megan, “When I get out of school I can show an employer what I’ve done, and I can get a great job!”