Andrew Brajcich, Treasurer
Andrew Brajcich is an Assistant Professor of Accounting at Gonzaga and brings a financial background to the board. He grew up in Spokane, worked as a counselor at the YMCA Camp Reed and served in the U.S. Peace Corps in the Republic of Georgia. More recently, he worked at the Big 4 accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche. Like any good CPA, Andrew hand ties his bowties. He is also licensed to practice law in Washington.
Elsa Distelhorst, President
Elsa Distelhorst is presently retired, devoting much of her time to traveling, family and friends, and is also very engaged in her volunteer work. Elsa serves as the Board Chair of both the Center for Justice and Rockwood Foundation. Elsa also serves on the board of the Krista Foundation for Global Citizenship and serves on its annual fundraising breakfast committee. She retired following 25 years of service at Whitworth University, the last 15 years as the Director of Development – Corporate, Foundation and Community Relations. Elsa has served with many organizations in the community including The Mayor’s Task Force on Race Relations (appointment by Mayor Jack Geraghty 97-99), Nishinomiya Sister City Society (President 95-97), Japan Week Spokane (Founding Chair for 8 years), Unity in Action (steering committee member 95-98), Intercollegiate Racial Concerns Committee (member 97-99), Churches Against Racism (member 98-99), and Greater Spokane Inc, formerly the Spokane Regional Chamber of Commerce, (member 1985-2010, in various roles including 8 years as Chair of the Workforce Diversity Council). In addition, Elsa is a graduate of Leadership Spokane, class of 1988. She brings a strong personal commitment to economic and social justice, intercultural understanding, and community service, and extensive experience in fundraising and non-profit board development.
Peter Grubb is one of the Northwest’s most renowned outfitters. The son of a biology and botany teacher, he developed an understanding of the wonder and fragility of the earth at an early age. He grew up camping and traveling and views the world as home. He studied the “Great Books” at St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland and began working as a whitewater rafting guide on one-day trips in West Virginia. To fulfill his ambition of guiding longer trips with more time to connect with people and nature, he came in Idaho in 1979 to work on the Salmon and Selway rivers. That fall he founded ROW Adventures and continues to lead the company along with his partner and wife Betsy Bowen. ROW Adventures runs a variety of trips locally and around the world. The company also operates the River Dance Lodge located on the Clearwater River in central Idaho. Peter strongly believes in the value of outfitted trips as a means to build a conservation ethic and a passion for advocacy among people who might not otherwise experience nature’s wild places. He’s also been involved with a variety of environmental organizations his entire career and also serves on the board of directors for Idaho Rivers United. He is committed to the long-term success of the Spokane Riverkeeper. He has passions for travel, reading and history. He lives in Coeur d’Alene near the headwaters of the Spokane River.
Carole Hemingway, Vice President
Carole is a retired lawyer who, during the later years of her practice in Spokane, focused primarily on family law. A 1981 Graduate of Gonzaga University Law school, Carole began her law career working as an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Washington. In that role she represented the state’s Department of Social and Health Services, and her work included cases of child abuse and neglect. She also worked with local Native American tribes on family issues. Carole was one of the original members of the SCAN (Spokane Abuse And Neglect prevention center) team working with other professionals on services and solutions for Spokane’s most vulnerable children.
After retirement Carole volunteered as Resource Director for the Loon Lake Food Bank and later helped establish a program through Stevens County Superior Court for parties representing themselves in dissolution actions. She resides very happily with her retired Public Defender husband Gary in the woods of Stevens County.
Lewis Russell “Rusty” Nelson
Rusty Nelson, whose greatest fulfillment has come through working for social change, is the Center for Justice board’s Vice President. He grew up in Georgia, Florida, and Arkansas, and got a degree in English and an ROTC commission in the Army at Presbyterian College in South Carolina. While serving in Vietnam, Rusty earned citations that included the Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster and V Device for valor. As a civilian, Rusty taught high school English before launching a career in radio. He worked as a disc jockey, news reporter, sports play-by-play announcer, operations manager, and commercial producer for stations in Georgia, Minnesota, and Washington. Rusty has received human rights awards from the mayor of Spokane, the Spokane County Democratic Central Committee, and the Pacific District Conference of the Mennonite Church.
He has also been a board member for Thin Air Radio and the Washington Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, and has served Shalom Church in leadership positions. In 1971, traveling in Croatia, he met Nancy who became his partner at the Peace and Justice Action League (PJALS) of Spokane and in life. They were married within four months of meeting and, from 1988 to 2009, served as co-directors for PJALS. Rusty and Nancy have two children and two grandchildren.
Nick Pontarolo is a Spokane native with strong interests in the law and sustainable agriculture. A graduate of Lewis & Clark High School and Gonzaga University, Nick is currently a law clerk at the Spokane law firm of Delay & Curran. Working through the non-traditional Washington State Law Clerk program, Nick is currently pursuing a license to practice law through apprenticeship. Nick lives on a small farm in Cheney, Washington where he grows a variety of fruits, vegetables and herbs. His interests in agriculture extend to his membership on the Main Market Board of Directors. He is also an avid recreationalist and traveler.
Jim Sheehan, Past President
Jim Sheehan, founded the Center for Justice in 1999. After graduating from Gonzaga Law School and spending more than 20 years as a public defender in Eastern and Western Washington, he received a windfall inheritance and wanted to put it to work for the greater good. Jim renovated the rundown Saranac Hotel, recreating it as the Community Building, a safe, welcoming, and affordable home for area nonprofit offices in Spokane’s downtown. And he founded the Center — a nonprofit law firm dedicated to protecting human rights, preserving the Earth, and holding the government accountable to the principles of democracy. Since Jim established the Center, it has served its numerous clients at low or no cost.
The son of a house painter and a housewife, Jim grew up near the University of Washington. He graduated from college in California and served two years in the army. It was during his service at Fort Brag that he witnessed overt racism for the first time. After his discharge from the army in 1969, Jim enrolled in law school where, between playing basketball and spending time with friends, he was able to squeeze in time for studying. Jim also serves on the board of the New Priorities Foundation.
Joe grew up in Spokane and began his relationship with the Center for Justice as a high school student at Lewis and Clark through the Practicum in Community Involvement (PICI) program. Joe also participated as a coach for the Center for Justice summer soccer camp that is now run by the Community Building. While he was pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in History at the University of Montana, Joe spent his summers working for the Center for Justice answering phones, conducting intake interviews, and making frequent trips to the courthouse. After graduating, he spent a few years in West Seattle with AmeriCorps as a reading tutor. Joe then ended up back in Spokane to take a position with the Community Building staff where he spent 3 years. Joe’s most recent endeavor was earning his Master’s degree in Psychology from Walden University. Joe also serves on the board of the Community Building Foundation. Currently Joe and his wife live in Spokane, and he is an avid sports fan and traveler.
Lorna St John, Secretary
Lorna joined the Center for Justice board in early 2013. She has been a community activist as far back as the 1970’s and it was this experience has led her to join the CFJ board. In her varied working career, Lorna has been a steelworker, a fashion coordinator, a 4-H leader, manager of a thoroughbred horse ranch, a customer service professional, and a veterinary clinic manager. Currently, she is executive producer and business manager at Hamilton Studio. Lorna spent ten years as a fashion coordinator for a major department store, producing fashion shows, special events, working as a stylist on advertising shoots, and accompanying buyers to fashion markets in Los Angeles and New York. When she joined Hamilton Studio, her fashion expertise was put to use as resident make-up artist. She has mastered the art of airbrush make-up.
In addition to fashion and layout photography, Lorna has developed expertise as a food stylist.
Emeritus Board Members
Rhosetta Rhodes is a native of Pensacola, Florida and has lived in Spokane for 17 years. She currently serves as the Director of Service-Learning and Community Engagement, and the Center for Conflict Transformation at Whitworth University. She graduated from Whitworth University in 1998 with a degree in Organizational Management. Rhosetta received her mediation certification from the Justice Center of Atlanta in 1998, and a certification in Transformative Mediation in 2000. For the past six years, she has collaborated with numerous agencies and organizations to improve the quality of life for Spokane’s citizens and to work towards sustainable communities.
Laurie Sheehan O’Neil
Lolly Sheehan O’Neil, a Center for Justice board member since 1999, resides on the west side of Washington state and enjoys traveling. And that’s fortunate for the Center, because that means she is willing to make the cross-state trips necessary to attend our board meetings. Born in 1942, Lolly has lived her whole life in the greater Seattle area and she graduated from Blanchet High School in 1960. A former cosmetologist, Lolly has been involved with the ACLU in the past and currently serves on the board of the Tahoma Clinic Foundation, a nonprofit organization established in 1996, committed to “furthering the study and evaluation of naturally-based, ‘whole-body’ therapies.”