Justin Fairfax, Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, urges the Beulah Baptist Church congregation to vote on Nov. 7. Fairfax spoke during Sunday’s Friends and Family Day. Also on the panel, (from left) Johnny Johnson, Buster Nelson, Katherine Charapich and Kienta Tibbs (seated behind Fairfax).

RIXEYVILLE—Beulah Baptist Church parishioners received a wealth of information about the importance of voting, life insurance, estate planning and preparing a final tribute to a loved one.

About 85 worshipers filled the church on Eggbornsville Road during Sunday’s Friends & Family Day, which featured a casual setting of several church goers donning purple t-shirts with the words “Straight Outta Beulah” written on the back.

Before introducing Justin Fairfax, who is the Democratic candidate for Lieutenant Governor of Virginia, Beulah pastor Kenneth Pitts reminded the crowd that Beulah Baptist Church doesn’t endorse any particular political party or candidate.

“Today is an information day. When we get more information, it makes for a better church,” said Pitts. “When we are informed then we can go out and spread the gospel. It’s up to you to make an informed decision about who you are going to vote for based on what the candidate is offering you.”

Before speaking, Fairfax, a 38-year-old lawyer, took the time to shake hands and briefly chat with everyone as he made his way up and down both aisles of the church.

Fairfax said he’s the second African American candidate to seek the lieutenant governor seat since former Virginia Governor Douglas Wilder did so more than 30 years ago. Wilder was the first African American elected as Virginia’s lieutenant governor serving from January 1986 until January 1990 and serving as governor of Virginia from January 1990 to January 1994.

A Pittsburgh, Pa., native and youngest of four children, Fairfax was raised in inner city Washington and describes his family as having little money, but was rich in love and spiritually. He recalls his neighborhood transforming from a “close-knit middle-class community to one ravaged by a growing drug epidemic, increasing violence and dwindling economic opportunities.

“You all remember what D.C. what like then. It was a tough place to grow up. It was the murder capital of the country. I lost so many friends to gun violence, drugs, to a broken criminal justice system and to a lack of opportunity in education. But even in the midst of that storm, God held us tight and with the help of my family, church, neighbors, friends and in some cases complete strangers, my mom was able to send all four of her children to college and two of us to law school,” Fairfax shared with the congregation. “We did not have a lot of money, but we had faith and hope.”

Fairfax added that he was surrounded by spiritual wealth.

“When people give you that kind of spiritual wealth, you can’t simply sit back and enjoy a comfortable situation. You have to fight. And the same way people fought for me, I will fight for you,” promised the married father of two.

Fairfax added that he’s traveled 40,000 miles around the state to share his message to fully fund schools, make college affordable for everyone and make sure that everyone gets health care.

Fairfax is a former assistant U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia and federal prosecutor, who served as deputy of the Major Crimes & Narcotics Unit as a member of the Human Trafficking Task Force.

Fairfax said Virginia is No. 1 when it comes to the school-to-prison pipeline, which illustrates the increasing encounters students have with the juvenile and adult criminal systems. According to the togetherrva.org/news website, six students for every 1,000 were referred to law enforcement nationally in 2016, but Virginia nearly tripled the national rate with an average of 16 referrals for every 1,000 students.

“That has to change,” Fairfax urged. “We have made it clear that we want to destroy and break that school-to-prison pipeline. Our mission is for everyone to dream big and that everyone should have opportunities no matter where they start or who they love or how much money their family has.”

Fairfax, who owns a dental practice in Northern Virginia with his wife, urged the congregation to get out and vote in November.

“We need your help, prayers, support and encouragement. This is the time for spiritual revival in the Commonwealth of Virginia. We can create a better future for our children,” concluded Fairfax.

On June 13, Fairfax defeated fellow Democrats Susan Platt and Gene Rossi in the primary election with 49 percent or 252,400 votes. He’ll face Jill Holtzman Vogel, who also won in June with 42.7 percent or 151,998 votes during the Republican Primary over Bryce Reeves and Glenn Davis. Fairfax and Vogel will face off during the gubernatorial election on Nov. 7.

Fairfax received scholarships to Duke University where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in public policy studies and he received his law degree from Columbia Law School.

Kienta Tibbs, co-owner and director of Tibbs Funeral Home & Cremation in Culpeper, also spoke on Sunday, urging the congregation to think about obtaining insurance.

“I’ve found over the past few years that a lot of families are coming in with insurance policies and it’s not enough to cover the funeral bill which then puts the strain on the other family members left to cover the difference,” said Tibbs, who estimates the average funeral costs between $7,000 and $10,000. “Also, make sure you have a beneficiary.”

Tibbs, who co-owns the business with her husband, Jeff, said she’s practiced in the funeral service industry for 17 years before opening her business in “Culpeper earlier this year; and her goal is to “provide excellent customer and funeral services to everyone in the community.”

Johnny Johnson, owner of Horizon Funeral Home in Culpeper, agrees with Tibbs, stating the importance of insurance.

“Make it easier on your family and purchase insurance,” suggested Johnson, who had 27 years as a mortician with the military before opening Horizon in 2009.

Culpeper attorney Katherine Charapich, who was also part of Sunday’s panel, recommended preparing for the future. She handles estate planning, elder and business planning at her downtown Culpeper office.

“Around my conference table, we cry a lot because life comes at us fast. There are often life-altering events that plans are not well prepared for,” Charapich said. “My motto is ‘Protecting the stewardship of your God given assets.’”

Charapich shared a few guidelines about estate planning: Make sure wills are up-to-date, consider a trust, have advance medical directives in place and make someone your financial power of attorney.

“Take care of you, put a plan in place while you have a sound mind,” she suggested.

Buster Nelson, an insurance agent for State Farm in Fredericksburg with 34 years experience, talked to the crowd about the importance of life insurance. He also told people to avoid those GoFundMe pages.

“Life insurance creates an immediate estate,” Nelson said. “If you have life insurance and you die, that insurance company will write you a check for $10,000. And no matter who you owe, they cannot touch that life insurance money. It will go directly to the beneficiary.”

Following Sunday’s event, the congregation hosted a barbecue-style cookout with food, fellowship and fun in the backyard.

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Rhonda Simmons can be reached at rsimmons@starexponent.com or 540/825-6397.

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