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
Dewey 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, Coordinator of Greenbrier Dream Tree for Kids, and a number of other local organizations.
Mike Mathews — M.O.C. Lab Administrator-Office Assistant
Mike is an experienced owner of XpertNetworks as a Website Designer, Computer Repair Specialist, and Graphics Designer. Driven by evolving technology, he takes pride in providing the best services and work possible. As a Web and Computer Technician, his goals include serving customers locally, providing outstanding services, and giving back to the community. In addition to his primary job functions at Mullens Opportunity Center and RAILWV
Caitlyn Davis — VISTA Coordinator of the Appalachian Coalfields Substance Abuse Recovery Program
Caitlyn works through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Her job is to assist those coming out of long term recovery programs and to help individuals get their lives back on track. Caitlyn also utilizes her time researching and writing grant requests to help fund RAIL projects throughout the community. Caitlyn is described as dependable, hardworking, and passionate about what she does.
Tom Gilliland — Maintenance
Tom Gilliland works through the Empowered Employment Program through Region 1 Workforce WV. He maintains upkeep of the yard work at the MOC along with assisting with the cleanup of the 5 kayak inputs. Tom also performs routine indoor maintenance of the MOC. He also helps maintain the greenhouse..
Tim McGraw — Assistant to Director of Operations
Tim McGraw maintains security and onsite maintenance for the MOC grounds. He is also president of the Tugunu Hiking Club. Tim also assists in maintaining the greenhouse and volunteers to assist in various RAIL projects.
As of January 2020
|Shirley Weaver||Retired Aircraft Industry||2020|
|Steve Clark||Economic Development||2020|
|President: Dewey Houck,||Retired Railroad||2021|
|David “Bug” Stover||County Circuit Clerk (State Senator Elect)||2021|
|Orlan “Butch” McNeely||State Farm Insurance Agent||2021|
|Treasurer: Reece Neely||Retired Sales Representative||2021|
|Vice-President: Charles Feller||Retired Insurance Agent||2021|
|Anne Pauley||Retired Administrator||2022|
|Gary Runion||Retired Professional Tipple Operator||2022|
|Tommy Redden||Executive Director||2022|