RAIL AmeriCorps Alumni
RAIL is fortunate to host many intelligent, hard-working AmeriCorps VISTA members and NCCC teams. In the fall of 2015, we launched our first-ever AmeriCorps program for young adults by partnering with Citizens Conservation Corps of West Virginia.
Sarah first came to Mullens with a college team from William & Mary in 2019 and loved her visit so much that she returned in 2021 to serve as an AmeriCorps VISTA. During her year with RAIL, she served as VISTA Coordinator of the Southern WV Coalfields Substance Abuse/Chronic Disease to Work Initiative. She headed up our healthy lifestyle programs, which included leading Gentle Yoga every week. Her most proud accomplishments from the year included being awarded a grant to address COVID-19 vaccine equity in the coalfields and collaborating with community partners to start a series of health fairs in southern West Virginia. Sarah is originally from Reston, Virginia and returned to her hometown after her VISTA term ended to become a School Social Worker.
Caitlyn first came to RAIL through Workforce WV’s Empowered Employment program, then she served for two years as an AmeriCorps VISTA from 2020-2022. During her service, she was RAIL’s VISTA Coordinator of the Appalachian Coalfields Substance Abuse Recovery Program. Her job was to assist those coming out of long term recovery programs and to help individuals get their lives back on track. Caitlyn is originally from California but has lived in Wyoming County since 2007.
Nathan arrived in Mullens through the Appalachian Coal Country Team VISTA program in August 2014. He focused on RAIL’s youth development and local agriculture programs. Nathan is originally from Morgantown, WV.
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 (BRED) Program. The BRED 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 focused on maintaining the building, so that it could 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 EDAÂ 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.
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
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
The following people have helped connect RAIL to the VISTA resources that have allowed the organization to prosper over the past fifteen years:
Christy Bailey, Kathleen Roedershimer, Dr. Allan Comp, April Elkins, and Judith Russell