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 Work Force 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.

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.

Sarah Goswick–“VISTA Coordinator of the Southern WV Coalfields Substance Abuse/Chronic Disease to Work Initiative”


Sarah graduated from William & Mary with a double major in Public Policy and Kinesiology & Health Sciences with a concentration in Public Health. She works with RAIL through the AmeriCorps VISTA program. Sarah spends her time writing grant requests and working with our Healthy Lifestyles programs.


As of January 2020

Board MemberOccupationTerm
Sam PetsonkAttorney2020
Shirley WeaverRetired Aircraft Industry2020
Steve ClarkEconomic Development2020
Todd HouckAttorney2020
President:  Dewey Houck,Retired Railroad2021
David “Bug” StoverCounty Circuit Clerk (State Senator Elect)2021
Orlan “Butch” McNeelyState Farm Insurance Agent2021
Treasurer: Reece NeelyRetired Sales Representative2021
Vice-President: Charles FellerRetired Insurance Agent2021
Anne PauleyRetired Administrator2022
Gary RunionRetired Professional Tipple Operator2022
Tommy ReddenExecutive Director2022