By Carol Longoria
the Durham VOICE
A once vacant parking lot scattered with litter and debris was transformed into a modeling runway, complete with catwalk, chairs and tents. Community volunteers arrived around 7 a.m. to complete the makeover in the lot at the corner of Angier Avenue and Salem Street on Sept. 22.
An “Afterschool Back 2 School Fashion Show & Fundraiser” kicked off the “Build a Better Block with Tootie” initiative. “More than 20 models from the Patricia Taborn Agency and Deona’s Hair Styles performed at an intimate luncheon of around 40 guests,” said Wanona Satcher from the City of Durham.
The event was named for Carolyn Holloway, known as “Tootie” to her friends, who is chairing the Build a Better Block project in Durham. “Tootie” also owns a hot truck and will be opening a restaurant on Angier Avenue in October.
The Fashion Show continued to build momentum for the Build a Better Block with Tootie project as the community rallied with Tootie to improve their neighborhood.
Strutting their stuff
The fundraiser began with a lunch and a special live singing performance concluding with several rounds of modeling.
One round of modeling included transforming recyclable items into back-to-school fashions. Some outfits included a trash bag or coffee filters while others used old CDs and other household craft items as embellishments.
Wanona Satcher from the Department of Neighborhood Improvement Services said, “the idea was for children who may not be able to afford new school clothes to learn how to put a creative spin on what is already in their closet.”
Even though the fashion show did not raise as much money as organizers hoped, the goal was to teach kids to make one’s own style and thus the show was a “huge success,” Statcher said.
The children creatively designed their own fashions and were excited about the grand prize: a 30-day storefront on Driver Street. The “Build a Better Block with Tootie” involves creating pop-up businesses on the Driver Street / Angier Avenue corridor. The winner of the Fashion Show will run one of those ‘pop-up’ businesses for a month with their own clothing designs.
Santea Griffin, of the Patricia Taborn Modeling Agency, said the event was about more than teaching children to model. She said the agency wants to teach young people to be a model student and a model citizen by practicing proper nutrition and great hygiene.
“We put sugar in the medicine,” Griffin said. “We hook them in with the modeling then host workshops on leadership, financial literacy, etiquette and nutrition.”
To teach them financial literacy, the agency opens Looney Tunes accounts at Cardinal State Bank for each of their models. To foster higher education, the agency opens CFNC accounts for their high school models and makes an initial deposit.
“We also coordinate with local high schools to make sure our high school aged models attend college fairs,” Griffin said.
There are about four modeling events and six workshops / bonding sessions every year, with auditions in February, Griffin said. Griffin, along with her sister, Rhonda Bullock-Cozart, started the Patricia Taborn Agency in memory of their mother, Patricia Taborn, in 2006.
Wanona Satcher said they decided to host the fashion show because of Tootie’s passion for children and business entrepreneurship. This effort allows children to be both creative and encourages them to start businesses. Even the prizes were chosen to foster creativity and entrepreneurship.
One of the judges, De’Lisa Stringer from DPR Construction, said, “The models were judged on several different criteria including creativity, originality and attitude.” Each child was ranked on a 10 point scale from fair to excellent. The model with the most points won.
The winners are:
First place, Brooklynn Evans, is an eight year old third grader from W.G. Pearson Elementary School. Her mom is Ms. Corin Lang. Brooklynn won a storefront for 30 days to sell her creative fashion designs as part of the Build a Better Block with Tootie project beginning on Oct. 27.
Second place, TaTyana Wilson, is a fourteen year old ninth grader from Hillside IB High School. She is the daughter of Ms. Lakeisha Wilson. TaTyana won a bag of fabric and other materials including pens, markers, a sketch pad and a wooden model to foster creative fashion designs.
Third place, Tyler Cozart, is a nine year old and attends Oakgrove Elementary School. He is the son of Rhonda and Johnnie Cozart. Tyler won a thermal lunch box which contained a business manual and a business pad to record his first business transaction.
Feeding the masses
“Ms. Tootie [Carolyn Holloway] feeds everyone that comes to the weekly meetings for free,” Stringer said. “She even feeds people who just happen by until all the food she has prepared runs out.”
Stringer said Ms. Tootie believes the more people she continues to help, the more people will come back.
Although Stringer is a newcomer to the area, she became involved with B3 through Wanona Satcher. She continues to be an active part of the project because of Tootie’s generosity and dedication.
Stringer said she believed the Fashion Show was a success because it promoted the B3 project to the community.
Stringer said, “I’m really excited about this initiative because I see the potential and character of the buildings in the area.”