Past AmeriCorps VISTAs include:

Chris Dexter: Chris is a native of Rochester, New York, and a graduate of SUNY Plattsburg where he graduated with a degree in Environmental Science and Geology. He served as a VISTA in 2009,  working on the Farming for Health and Wealth program, aiding in the development of a farmer's market in Pineville.

Josh Fangmeier: Josh began his VISTA term in 2008, coordinating the launch of the Wyoming County Business Retention, Expansion, and Development (BRE&D) Program.  The BRE&D program works to connect local businesses and entrepreneurs with the financial, training, and planning resources that they need to succeed.  Josh is a Nebraska native and 2007 graduate of Hastings College, holding a BA in Political Science and History.

Ole Bye: Ole was assigned to complete a Feasibility Study for the launch of Groundwork Wyoming County. Groundwork will seek to leverage funding for community redevelopment, brownfields reclamation, green space, parks and recreation, and job training. Ole is a native of Vermont, and holds a BA in photography from Virginia Intermont College. Click here to read more about Groundworks.

Megan McMillan: Megan is an Arkansas native and Hendrix College graduate. Her VISTA position at RAIL was Director of the Mullens Opportunity Center. She focuses on maintaining the building, so that it can be used fully by the community. Additionally she was involved in community development work. This included developing youth programs and scheduling and organizing events at the MOC.

Allison Reddington: Ali is a New York City native and Dartmouth College graduate. She worked on Brownfield's Restoration, as an OSM/VISTA which takes abandoned mine sites and turns the land into profitable enterprises to generate jobs, money, and assets for the area. Click here to read about Allison's EDA  Brownfields assesment Grant!

Sam Petsonk: Born in Morgantown, WV, Sam is a former student at West Virginia University, and a graduate of Brandeis University. Sam has experience studying and facilitating land-use planning and community development in India, Mississippi, and West Virginia. He has a great passion for West Virginia history and culture. He was thrilled to work in his home state to ensure that the creative powers of West Virginians are free to be exercised in order to produce the future of each West Virginia citizen and each West Virginia community through the democratic production of nature, of culture, of place. Click here to read about Sam's efforts.

Brittany Bauer: Brittany is a strong advocate of development efforts that respond to the regional priorities of Southern West Virginia. She has served as a Capital Region AmeriCorps*NCCC member,  completing projects in the Gulf Coast and northeast region of the country in areas of education, environment, unmet human needs, public safety, and disaster relief. Prior to this, she coordinated clinical research on Left Ventricular Assist Devices for Baylor College of Medicine's Surgery Department. She is an alumna of the University of Texas at Austin, holding a BA in Biology and Art History.

Erica Peterson: Erica is originally from New Jersey and is a graduate of Carleton College in Northfield, MN. Over the past eight years she's traveled through Appalachia working with the Appalachia Service Project, a home repair organization. At RAIL, she coordinated the GIVE (Guyandotte Initiative for Volunteerism and Enrichment) program, which coordinates volunteers for the Mullens area and facilitates the visits of out-of-town home repair groups.

Kelly Jo Drey-Houck: Kelly Jo comes to West Virginia from Wisconsin. As an OSM/VISTA at RAIL she coordinated the Upper Guyandotte Watershed Association (UGWA). The UGWA is a grassroots, community-based organization working to reduce sources of pollution in order to clean up the streams and make the watershed a better place to live. Kelly Jo is also involved in the efforts to solve the waste water issues of the area. Through the dedication, passion, and great skill of ordinary West Virginians working together with Kelly Jo, the UGWA has emerged as a strong and independent grassroots organization --exemplary in the region.


West Virginia Corporation for National and Community Services officials that have been instrumental in building RAIL.

A special thanks to: Christy Bailey, Kathleen Roedershimer, and Judith Russell

RAILS's AmeriCorps VISTA Alumni-

  • Rocky Blankenship, Itmann, WV
  • Brian Henry, Selmer, TN-University of Tennessee Martin
  • Steve Clark, Indianapolis, IN- University Indiana, MA Ball State University Click here to read an article on Steve Clark. Click Here to read about Steve's current efforts for an Artesian Trail.
  • Dan Legried, Moorhead, MN - Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN
  • Scott Lasher, Chicago, IL - Case Western Reserve University, JD (Two years Peace Corps)
  • Rachael Candler, Mullens, WV

RAIL's AmeriCorps OSM/VISTA Alumni- Organized by Dr. Allan Comp

  • Suzi Zakowski, Marietta, OH – Ohio State, WVU (VISTA Alumni)
  • Hanna Wheeler, Morgantown, WV - Oberlin College

RAIL's AmeriCorps STATE Alumni- Organized by Jean Ambrose, Christine Spaulding, LifeBridge

  • Dan Legreid, Moorhead, MN - Gustavus Adolphus College, St. Peter, MN
  • Sherry Palmer, Lexington, KY – University of Kentucky
  • Sarah Joslin, Vancouver, WA; Washington State University, MA Appalachian State University
  • Lori Lespinasse, Mullens, WV; RAIL GED Program
  • Gerri Harrison, Wyoming County Resident
  • Melinda Young, Wyoming County Resident
  • Debra Hale, Mullens, WV

RAIL's AmeriCorps*NCCC Alumni- Organized by Rich Smith and Fran Campion

  • AmeriCorps*NCCC Team #1 from the Washington Campus
  • AmeriCorps*NCCC Team #2 from the Washington Campus
  • AmeriCorps*NCCC Team #3 from the Washington Campus
  • AmeriCorps*NCCC Team #4 from the Washington Campus
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Volunteers are a vital part of RAIL's success. We are SEEKING VOLUNTEERS! Please contact us if you want to make a difference and join our remarkable work teams.

In September 2010 RAIL volunteers began initiating a plan to invigorate Community and Economic development in the southern coalfields of West Virginia. In the past ten years RAIL has studied the needs of families in Appalachia as well as available resources and other accessible opportunities that can help their community become sustainable. Gaining a better understanding of what is needed has culminated in the Coal Heritage Trail of New Commerce Action Plan. Those implementing this plan, an organization at the grass roots, well understand their work cannot be successful without the help of volunteers and generous resources providers. Anyone interested in participating in this bold undertaking of helping families living in the Appalachian coalfields improve their economic and social conditions may contact for more information. RAIL gets its name from Rural Appalachian Improvement League, Inc. and can best be described as Volunteers coming together as an organization to find ways to best benefit their community

March 18, 2011

Alternative Spring Break
click to view this video