The Rural Appalachian Improvement League, Inc (RAIL) was founded in 2001 by community volunteers to help build a new and sustainable social structure and economic base in the southern West Virginia coalfields. RAIL is a grass roots organization that believes the local people – especially the youth and young adults – must be directly involved in solving the social and economic problems that exist in the community. RAIL believes that competent, creative, energetic, and qualified leadership at the local level is essential to community building. RAIL also believes that a base of operations that allows interaction with all the people in the community is essential. These beliefs are based on fifteen years of experience working with the people, agencies, and others that offer assistance in local community building. RAIL has 4 major areas that focus on community and economic development:

1. Mullens Opportunity Center (MOC), managed by RAIL, is a Community Center located on a three acre complex in the City of Mullens.

2. AmeriCorps program to train, educate, and mentor 10 young adults to learn and practice ways to earn a livelihood and help rebuild their community.

3. Specialty Farming to best utilize limited mountain space as well as abandoned mine lands and mountain top removal sites.

4. Tourism and innovative business program to build industry based on the culture, heritage and natural attributes of the region.


A group of Mullens-area volunteers founded RAIL to respond to the disastrous floods that decimated Wyoming County in 2001. With the assistance of AmeriCorps members, volunteer groups and state support, RAIL renovated the Mullens Grade School, which had been severely damaged by the flood. Local residents also helped with the cleanup and established a community center named the Mullens Opportunity Center (MOC).

Since then, RAIL has used the MOC as a testing ground for meaningful social entrepreneurship. MOC staff were instrumental in forming the Upper Guyandotte Watershed Association, and local business people set up shop in many of the classrooms. As funding grew, the MOC added GED training, a computer lab, social service supports and youth employment programs. An AmeriCorps Farm to School program was added in 2015, which also led to the creation of community gardens and our first-ever farmer’s market.

RAIL also operates the Wyoming County Diabetes Coalition. The organization also employs retirees and young people through Experience Works and WorkForce West Virginia.

RAIL has partnered closely with AmeriCorps VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America) and NCCC (National Civilian Conservation Corps). The MOC is also the main hub for colleges and universities, faith-based groups, and Wyoming County school programs.

Meet the Staff

deweyDewey Houck — RAIL President
RAIL Founder Dewey Houck is a retired railroad worker and Mullens-area native who commutes regularly between Mullens and his home in Roanoke, VA. After the catastrophic floods of 2001, Dewey committed to helping rebuild Wyoming County. Since then, his efforts have been recognized on local, state, and national levels. Dewey is a recipient of the 2001 Mullens Chamber of Commerce Civic Hero Award, 2006 Senior Volunteer of the Year in West Virginia, the 2006 Roanoke Civitan Club’s Good Samaritan Award, Stanford University’s 2006 National Encore Purpose Prize, and the 2009 Critical Impact Award from Philanthropy West Virginia.

Charlene Cook — Director of Operations

Charlene is a native of southern West Virginia and long-time Itmann resident. She runs the Wyoming County Diabetes Coalition, Shed Unwanted Pounds Weight Loss Group, and coordinates all events taking place at the MOC. Charlene is active in the Mullens Chamber of Commerce, Mullens Ministerial Association, and a number of other local organizations.


As of January 2019

Board Member Occupation Term
President:  Dewey Houck, Retired Railroad 2019
Vice-President: Charles Feller CV Feller Insurance 2019
Treasurer: Reece Neely Sales Representative/City Commissioner 2019
Orlan “Butch” McNeely State Farm Insurance 2019
David “Bug” Stover County Circuit Clerk 2019
Secretary: Dvon Duncan Retired Teacher/Retired USAF 2020
Gary Runion Retired Coal Industry 2020
Anne Pauley Retired Administrator 2020
Tommy Redden Executive Director 2020
Sam Petsonk Attorney 2021
Steve Clark DOD Education Economic Development 2021
Shirley Weaver Retired Aircraft Industry 2021