From her very first internship with Jewish women's association Hadassah,

Jennifer K. D'Alvarez has worked for organizations whose causes she believes in.

"I was going in every day and fulfilling a purpose," the native-born Angeleno said of her time at Hadassah, where she raised funds for a hospital in Israel. "I was helping people."

She continued in this philanthropic vein by working for non-profits while getting a psychology degree at California State University Northridge and, later, an M.B.A. at Pepperdine University.

Alvarez currently works at the Highland Park office of Optimist Youth Homes & Family Services, where she was recently promoted to director of development. The non-profit organization runs group homes for at-risk youth, with facilities in Los Angeles and Orange counties.

As director, Alvarez now supervises a staff of two, but her main duty remains the same as when she joined Optimist in 2006: reaching out to corporations and individuals for contributions.

D'Alvarez said a large chunk of the year's fundraising goal of $600,000 comes from the non-profit's annual gala, the most recent of which was held in October at the Universal Studios Globe Theatre. The event raised $225,000 from a combination of individual donations and corporate sponsors.

The challenge of fundraising in L.A., she said, is that the city offers a wide range of worthy causes for philanthropists. Helping at-risk youth does not always make it to the top of everyone's list.

"The challenge is that the kids have had some problems. They may be on probation. Not everyone supports or understands that," said D'Alvarez.

In terms of the broader economic slowdown, she said that it has not yet impacted people's willingness to give, but she can see it becoming more of a problem down the line. "We do have to be aware that the economy is a potential issue. We have to take that into consideration."

Alvarez lives with her husband David in the San Gabriel Valley. She enjoys traveling in her spare time, and has just returned from her honeymoon in Aruba.

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