Here’s a round-up of news briefs from around Southwest and Southside. Send yours for possible inclusion to firstname.lastname@example.org.
* * *
Liberty student and NASCAR driver to race in honor of fallen soldier with Liberty ties
For the fifth Memorial Day weekend in a row, William Byron, NASCAR driver and student of Liberty University Online Programs, will race in the 600 Miles of Remembrance at his hometown track of Charlotte Motor Speedway honoring a fallen service member with Liberty connections.
On Sunday, May 29, the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 will don the name of U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Ronald “Aaron” Grider on its windshield. The Sunday night race will be broadcast on FOX starting at 6 p.m. EST, following a pre-race military salute with demonstrations from Fort Bragg, N.C., where Grider formerly served for five years in the Special Operations Command (Airborne).
Grider, 30, was killed in combat in Afghanistan in 2010 while serving in Operation Enduring Freedom. At the time of his death, Grider, originally from Alton, Ill., was pursuing a B.S. in Multidisciplinary Studies. He was killed on his 30th birthday on Sept. 18, 2010.
In last year’s 600 Miles of Remembrance, Byron raced in memory of former U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Cole Condiff, another student in Liberty’s online programs. In 2020, Byron drove in honor of former online student U.S. Army Sgt. Robert J. Billings and World War II veteran and longtime Liberty administrator George Rogers. In the 2019 race, Byron honored U.S. Air Force Captain Mark Weber, who also studied through Liberty’s online programs. In 2018, his rookie year in the NASCAR Cup Series, Byron paid tribute to two former Liberty faculty members: U.S. Army Maj. Mike Donahue, a former assistant professor of military science for Liberty’s Army ROTC program, and Ret. Air Force Lt. Col. Charlie Davidson, who had a decorated 20-year career as a military chaplain before becoming director of Liberty’s Doctor of Ministry (D.Min.) program.
Liberty University is a primary sponsor of Byron and the No. 24 team for 12 races this season, its fifth year as a partner with Hendrick Motorsports in the Cup Series. Byron has raced the No. 24 Liberty University Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 four times this season, including to a win at Atlanta Motor Speedway in March. He will climb behind the wheel of the Liberty University Chevy again for this Sunday’s All-Star race at Texas Motor Speedway, the Memorial Day weekend event in Charlotte, and six more races through the fall.
Last October, Hendrick Motorsports announced a contract extension with Liberty University as a primary sponsor through the 2026 season. Earlier this month, Byron reached a three-year contract extension with Hendrick Motorsports to continue to drive the No. 24 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1 through the end of the 2025 Cup Series season.
* * *
Federal housing funds for Virginia announced
U.S. Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, have announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded $114,700,190 in federal funding for affordable housing across Virginia.
Communities in Southwest and Southside slated to receive funding through community development block grants are:
Communities receiving funds through HOME Investment Partnerships:
Emergency solutions grant:
* * *
Virginia Food Industry Association names new executive director
The Virginia Food Industry Association (VFIA) Board of Directors has announced that Melissa Assalone has been chosen to lead VFIA as its new executive director. Assalone formally assumed her new role as executive director of VFIA on May 16, succeeding Parker Slaybaugh.
Assalone previously served as deputy legislative director for Governor Ralph Northam’s administration. She has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin and earned her master’s degree from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU). In addition, Assalone received a Certificate of Nonprofit Management from VCU and is a graduate of the Political Leaders Program administered by The Sorensen Institute.