Below was taken from the The Charleston Gazette online. Click here for the full article.

Student volunteers renovating historic Wyco church

BY Rick Steelhammer    April 17, 2010

WYCO, W.Va. -- Built on a bluff overlooking Allen Creek in 1917 by coal baron W.P. Tams and abandoned 80 years later after the mines around Wyco Coal Camp C played out, Wyco Community Church has seen better days.

Its roof in need of major repairs, its interior damaged by leaking water and its frame propped up by cribbing, the weather-beaten Gothic revival church was placed on the West Virginia Preservation Alliance's Most Endangered Properties List in 2009.

On Friday, 25 students, alumni and faculty members from Cornell University began a three-day work project, re-glazing the church's windows, stripping old paint from its exterior, applying primer and paint to its walls, and making temporary repairs to the roof. Several AmeriCorps volunteers joined the group.

"Eventually, it will be fully restored, but we couldn't do it without volunteers," said Dewey Houck, director of the Rural Appalachian Improvement League (RAIL), a nonprofit group based in Mullens, which assumed ownership of the church in 2004.

"In a couple of months, we'll bring a contractor in to fix the roof, so we won't have to worry about any more water damage," said Houck. "But more than half the work is being done by volunteers like these."

RAIL hopes to launch the restored church on a new career as a coal camp museum, a community center for Wyco, and a place for meditation and reflection.

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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

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