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CHICAGO — It started with a simple gesture: serving a hot cup of coffee to the homeless. But something bigger was brewing in Chicagoan Arloa Sutter.

Sutter wanted to provide opportunities for those less fortunate.

More than 25 years later, Sutter is the director and founder of Breakthrough Urban Ministries, a nonprofit organization that serves the East Garfield Park community on the city’s West Side.

With an annual budget of nearly $7 million, Breakthrough offers food, shelter and job placement. In 2015, the organization opened FamilyPlex, a health clinic and early education center. Sutter said the key to success is reaching children as early as possible.

“Instead of just treating the symptoms,” Sutter said, “… we go all the way, starting with 2- and 3-year-olds. We make sure they are surrounded by a lot of support, and they can achieve their goal in life.”

Sutter said Breakthrough’s success stems from her 100-person staff and steady group of community volunteers.

Chicagoan Arloa Sutter is one of Chicago’s Very Own.

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