Andrew Brajcich, Treasurer

andrewsmuAndrew 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.

Patty Gates

Patty 22Patty grew up in the Skagit Valley of Washington State where she loved exploring the woods near her home and spending summers at her grandparents’ farm. Her interest in activism and justice issues was forged during the tumult of the late 60′s and 70′s at Washington State University where she received her degree in Sociology. Her travels after college to South America, Europe, North Africa and the Middle East have been a cornerstone of Patty’s interest in people, relationships and the diversity of cultures. Receiving her teaching credentials from Whitworth University in 1977, she began her classroom career teaching 3rd Grade in the Spokane Public Schools. She took a 6 year hiatus to raise her son and returned to teaching in a staff development role in 1997. When the opportunity to work with a family foundation arose, Patty changed career hats and joined the nonprofit community in Spokane. After 14 years she is now entering retirement and has joined the board of the Center for Justice as well as the Community Building Foundation, which she managed for the past 5 years. Patty feels that one of the best aspects of working with nonprofit organizations is having the opportunity to learn about the many diverse and dynamic programs that are making a difference in Spokane. Her particular interest is in bringing people together to strengthen the web of connections that create a healthy, vibrant community. She will continue her efforts through her board memberships into retirement and she looks forward to more travel, gardening, reading and being with family and friends.

Carole Hemingway, Vice President

CaroleCarole 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 is a life-long activist whose greatest fulfillment has come through working for social change. Rusty 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

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.

Jeremiah Sataraka Jeremiah

Jeremiah Cho Sataraka is pursuing a Ph.D. in Cultural Studies and Social Thought in Education at Washington State University in Pullman, WA. His parents’ beautiful cultural heritages (mother from South Korea, father from American Samoa) were instrumental in helping him form his own identity as a North American. He has worked with Spokane Community College’s Multicultural Student Services, served as an AmeriCorps volunteer with the Act Six Leadership and Scholarship Initiative in his home-city of Tacoma, WA, and has worked with the Posse Foundation in Chicago, IL. Jeremiah is currently wrapping up his last year as a resident director for Whitworth University, where he also received his undergraduate education. This is his second Board of Directors experience, as he previously served on the board of the Asia Pacific Cultural Center. He loves the city and continues to be challenged in viewing them not only as places to work and volunteer, but to understand them as places of sustainable, equitable and loving community. “There’s really no such thing as the ‘voiceless’. There are only the deliberately silenced, or the preferably unheard.” -Arundhati Roy

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 Sheehan  Joe Sheehan2

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. Joe currently works at the East Central Community Center as a Youth Summer and Sports Program Developer and Instructor. Joe and his wife live in Spokane, and he is an avid sports fan and traveler.

Lorna St John, Secretary

LornasmuLorna 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

RR-cropadRhosetta 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.”