A Helping Hand

Missy Clagg Browning was raised right here in the River City. She is a two-time graduate of Marshall University. She has raised a talented and successful daughter. But it is her life away from the spotlight that has truly made a difference in the world.

Looking to instill the very values of compassion and service in her daughter that she herself grew up with, Browning began volunteering her time and dedicating herself to community service at a young age. One project turned into two, two turned into four and before long, Missy found herself as a pillar of service to those in need in the Tri-State area.

Through her volunteer efforts, Browning has helped shine a light on the homeless and those struggling with addiction; people who often become invisible in today’s society. And for her efforts, Browning has garnered numerous accolades including being named MUAA’s national award winner for Community Achievement in 2015.

So how does she do it all? What drove her to want to give back? We will let Browning tell you in this edition of Alumni Spotlight.

HERD HEAVEN: Tell us a little about yourself.

MISSY BROWNING: I grew up in Huntington, moved to Milton in high school and enrolled in the College of Education pursuing a teaching degree in Elementary Education in the fall of 1987. I switched majors and graduated in the spring of 1989 with an AAS in Office Technology with a Medical Specialization. I returned part-time from 1997 to 1998 to take some electives and to finish up a second AAS in Office Technology with an Executive Specialization. I’ve toyed with returning several times to pursue something in line with my volunteer passions and through the years I’ve taken photography, music, dance, cooking and gardening classes. About me personally, in June of 2015, 30 years after we had met in high school and followed different life paths, Brian and I went on our first date. In the past year and a half, we have laughed, explored and served. In December, while I was still dressed as Miss Claus, he proposed after the street ministry Christmas event, and I happily accepted. We’re currently planning a small vintage-inspired wedding in May.

HH: Who was your favorite professor at Marshall?

MB: Linda Turner. I recall her telling us she had left a thermos of coffee for her neighborhood trash collectors. I remember realizing I’d never considered doing something like that and was inspired by her compassion for others.

HH: What is one of your favorite memories from your time at Marshall?

MB: I worked two or three jobs and commuted, so much of my college years are a blur. I’ve often wondered what I would have pursued had I been more focused.

HH: Why did you choose Marshall?

MB: Growing up in Huntington and being so proud that my dad attended here sealed the deal for me. Marshall was the only place I considered and when I learned of two scholarship awards, my choice was confirmed.

HH: Tell us a little about your post-Marshall career?

MB: After graduation, I went to work for WV American Water Company in 1990. I left there in 1998 and joined River Park Hospital’s team for the next 15 years. In 2013, when I was approached by MUSOM’s Department of Psychiatry to join as their Education Coordinator, I made the decision to start a new journey. This spring I’ll celebrate my four-year anniversary with Marshall Health.

HH: You do a lot of volunteer work, talk about your drive to help others?

MB: As a community volunteer over the past eight years, I’ve had the privilege of serving the local homeless and recovery communities in a variety of ways. From collections and drives to events, I’ve met and reconnected with so many like-minded people who want to help, and I’ve learned so much about people. The latest addition was the installation of the Heart to Hand Blessing Box, located in the heart of homeless foot traffic, that holds items for those in need. My dad built it and we installed it the week of Thanksgiving as part of a Hunger and Homeless Awareness initiative. Seeing the box fill and deplete, sometimes within hours, has been such a wonderful experience. I’ve also seen circumstances that bring tears and reinforce the need to help. I’ve been involved in serving at the River City Street Ministry, the City Mission, Harmony House, Cridlin’s Pantry, Marshall Medical Outreach, Facing Hunger Foodbank, Recovery Point, Huntington’s Drug Court Program, Branches, Little Victories, Mamm and Glam, Tea for Teal, as well as breast cancer fundraisers and awareness, and numerous homeless collections and drives. I’ve found the sense of community and generosity in Huntington are unmatched. For example, in October, a plea on social media went out for volunteer collections throughout the community to gather coats and winter wear for our Herd for the Homeless event. The community responded with over 1,000 coats, as well as hundreds of hats, gloves and blankets. Those items were distributed along with hygiene and food staples. Likewise, when I’ve posted for donations at the Healing Place, within hours the needed items and additional funds start pouring in. The generosity of individuals and local companies collaborating make what I do possible. To see needs met with this type of overwhelming response, even after all these years, is still miraculous to me. I’m simply one volunteer holding a megaphone and I never tire of what I’ve termed “God’s Math” which results in infinitely more than what I’ve asked or imagined.

HH: What is your earliest memory of volunteering?

MB: I was always the homeroom mom, team mom, etc. Once Lexi started at Marshall, I found myself empty-nested, so I began to invest more time in serving after work. What started as helping provide breakfast and snacks on Saturday mornings at the street ministry grew into helping establish Marshall Medical Outreach, a monthly free mobile medical outreach, coordinating special events and collections for the homeless. While serving the homeless, I was introduced to the Healing Place, now the Recovery Point, an addictions recovery center for men. Serving them opened the door to volunteer with the Drug Court and so on. Broadcasting needs through social media, as well as collaborating with agencies providing services to the homeless and recovery communities, has led to a greater expansion than I could have imagined. While I remember the emotions of that first Saturday morning Lexi and I went to the street ministry eight years ago, I had no idea how volunteering would evolve and impact my life.

HH: Of all you have done up to this point, what are you most proud of?

MB: My life’s greatest investment of time and love is my daughter Lexi. She graduated with a degree in Online Journalism from Marshall in December after being on the Dean’s List, serving as Editor for the Honors Oracle and Executive Editor of The Parthenon. She’s pursuing her Master’s in Photojournalism at Ohio University in the fall. I could not be more proud of my Daughter of Marshall.

HH: Do you find your daughter following in your footsteps?

MB: In raising Lexi, one of my parenting goals was to model compassion and service. I believe it’s important that we teach our children to see and meet the needs of others, so I’ve been involved in community service for many years. She has so much compassion for others, and I see examples of her serving and speaking for the underserved and “invisible” in her circles of influence. I raised her to be independent and open-minded, and I’m awed by her.

HH: What are some of your hobbies away from work?

MB: I enjoy cooking, photography, reading, gardening, traveling and MU games!


HH: Favorite Food?
MB: Italian.

HH: Favorite Music?
MB: I’m a fan of almost all types of music and I listen to music wherever I am. Music is meant to be the accompaniment to life.

HH: First Car?
MB: Dodge Dynasty.

HH: Favorite Movie?
MB: Harry Potter!

HH: New Year’s Resolution?
MB: Pursing healthier choices and spending more time with family?

HH: Finally, any lasting words of advice for those who are inspired by your story?

MB: I’ll leave you with my favorite quote from Mother Teresa. “We think sometimes that poverty is only being hungry, naked and homeless. The poverty of being unwanted, unloved and uncared for is the greatest poverty.” We are each capable of making a difference for someone and, to me, that is where life’s greatest joy is found.