by Cara Gardner

Soldiers' Security-- SPOKANE -- Usually soldiers protect civilians, but Spokane attorney Christine Weaver is one civilian who worked hard last year to protect a National Guardsman. Weaver was recently honored with the Award of Special Recognition from the Special Operations Detachment Pacific Unit in Tacoma after she worked pro bono to defend one of the unit's soldiers from creditors after his Spokane employer declared bankruptcy while he was away on active duty. It isn't at all unusual for soldiers to be faced with foreclosure on their homes while they're serving their country, Weaver says. In fact, many families walk away from the experience with ruined credit because they don't realize the law is on their side.

"I'm surprised I haven't been called by more people," she says. "They assume there's just nothing they can do." Weaver, who specializes in employment law, filed suit to protect the soldier.

"Under the Service Member Relief Act, there's a provision that indicates that you cannot force someone into bankruptcy or take a default against him or her or otherwise adversely affect him or her when it comes to home mortgage," she explains. But, she adds, creditors often don't know (or care), leaving soldiers and their families in desperate situations.

Weaver's work helped inspire two Spokane Republicans, state Sen. Brad Benson and state Rep. John Serben, to introduce legislation that would further support Guard members and their families. Under Senate Bill 6028 (and an identical House Bill), Guard members would have a grace period after their active duty before facing mortgage payments or other bills.

"I talked to friends of mine who had come back [from active duty] and decided that the guys who really needed help were ones that went from a high salary that dropped off or the ones that lost their job while they were gone," Benson says. "The question was, 'What can we do to help them?' Give them breathing room when they get home."

Benson explains that soldiers are protected under the Service Member Relief Act while they're serving, but as soon as they return home, creditors begin calling whether or not they have re-established their employment. Both the House and Senate versions of the bill have an emergency clause, which means they will go into effect as soon as the governor signs them. "This will help the soldiers who are active now," Benson says.

Weaver says she'll continue to fight for soldiers while they're not around to pay their bills. "It's horribly unfair for these people who are serving our country to have to use every last dime they've got in order to serve." n

Jacob's Climbing That Ladder -- SPOKANE -- Spokane's beloved Jacob's Java, the popular chain of five drive-thru espresso huts run by identical twin brothers Scott and Paul Jacob, is expanding into the roasting business. After 12 years of serving quality java, Scott Jacob explains it's time to start roasting for wholesale. Gemelli Coffee (in Italian, gemelli means "twins") is the name for the new roasting company that will occupy 418 W. First Ave. The building housed Spokane's original Fire Station 1, built in 1890. "We're hoping it'll open in a couple of months," Scott says, adding that eventually they'd like to have a retail shop in the same location.

The local roasting competition is fierce, so some may wonder why the Jacob twins decided to throw their hat in. There's Craven's, 4 Seasons, DOMA, Thomas Hammer and several other small bean businesses, all scrunched into the same market. Scott Jacob says the rising prices of beans, in addition to middleman expenditures and other increased business costs, have convinced them to roast their own green coffee rather than buying from someone else. "[Gemelli] is designed around being just big enough to supply [Jacob's Java] and whoever might want to save money on incredible coffee -- since the more we sell, the lower our costs are."

The Jacob brothers say they want to team up with other small local coffee outlets. "We want to help other coffee shops lower their prices, even if they feel like we are their competition. Because after all, our real competition is not the drive-thru across town or even across the street -- it's the large corporate coffee shops dedicated to the domination of the market," he says.

For customers, the important question is whether the taste of their morning lattes will change now that the company is roasting its own beans.

"Actually, the guy who's roasting our coffee worked at 4 Seasons, [where Jacob's Java used to purchase beans]," Scott Jacob says.

Publication date: 03/10/05

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