Designer’s Choice Volunteers work ‘front of house’

Anyone who has attended a Designer’s Choice Fashion Preview has seen Brenda Hatton-Ficklin. His smiling face is, in fact, usually the first to be seen.

At the event — a showcase of the work of local/regional fashion designers — Hatton-Ficklin has served for many years as a volunteer, working the “front of the house.”

“That is Theresa’s role [Timmons, the event’s founder] gave me,” he said, explaining that the person at the front of the house wasn’t just the first person event goers saw. “They took care of all the problems. They handle tickets at the door. They handle the media at the door, and that’s why you always see me.”

At one time, Hatton-Ficklin thought he wanted to work back of the house, tending to the needs of hairstylists and makeup artists, emcees, and anyone else backstage. One year, he worked behind the house. And get an attitude adjustment.

“It’s a lot of chaos,” he says. “You have all these people backstage and everyone pulls you…. Everyone has questions. Everyone needs this. Everyone needs that. And if you don’t know anything else about me, I’m a woman of order . [I decided], ‘Let me go back to where I know what I’m doing — the front of the house.’ It’s just a place I’ve always been comfortable with.”

Hatton-Ficklin is used to giving his time for the common good. Sales director for the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau and divorced mother of three began volunteering at the Barraque Street Missionary Baptist Church in Pine Bluff at an early age.

A Little Rock Junior League supporter, Hatton-Ficklin says it was at the League that he learned about real and meaningful community volunteerism.

“Not only that, I was also introduced to be able to have a leadership role as a volunteer,” he said. “Sometimes, we think that volunteering is just being a bachelor, or doing whatever someone tells us to do. But I learned how to volunteer as well as take on a leadership role.

“You always have to ask the person to say, ‘OK, yeah… we’re going to be here all night. … We really have to come up with some kind of action plan.'”

Hatton-Ficklin also spent many years serving on the hospitality committee, as well as marriage ministries, St. Baptist Church. Mark Little Rock.

“It gave me the opportunity to be exposed to so many other people, and I’m a friendly person,” says Hatton Ficklin. “I felt once joined St. Mark, [I] can really dig in, dig into my heels and figure out, ‘What’s my… prize? … What [did] God put me on this earth to do?’ That’s where I realized that my prize was a social gathering.”

Hatton-Ficklin later became event director at St. mark.

“At that moment, I realized that not only was I busy here in ministry, but I wanted to get my hands dirty [in] events, because that’s what I love to do,” she says. “I love meeting people. I like to make people feel welcome. I like to make sure that everything is correct.

“This is one of those situations where I feel like I’m having an ‘aha’ moment. And I’m like, ‘Oh, this is my gift.’ … I think the event side of things is one thing, but volunteering is fulfillment. It fulfills my needs. That’s when I can thrive.”


Recently appointed to the board of directors of Ronald McDonald House, Hatton-Ficklin volunteers for the Arkansas Black Hall of Fame and is active with Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. And she’s the executive director of the Timmons Arts Foundation… a beneficiary of Designer’s Choice, who is making a comeback after being sidelined by covid for the last few years.

The non-profit foundation exposes school children to arts education, born out of what Theresa Timmons laments the loss of such programs in public schools. The foundation’s specialty is the month-long Cultivation of the Arts Summer Youth Camp, which comes with the help of a fashion show to fund.

Timmons, says Hatton-Ficklin, “was like a sister to me, and one of my best friends.”

When Timmons came up with the idea for the Designers’ Choice Fashion Preview, “I thought it was a great idea. And of course Korto Momolu is our best friend, one of his best friends. What better way to start a fashion show?” [than] with one of your friends from Liberia who was also the first runner-up for [Season 5 of reality show] The ‘runway project’?”


Designer’s Choice has always emphasized the glitz and glam of New York style, even down to its famous celebrity hosts. Past hosts have included actors Morris Chestnut, Viveca A. Fox, Larenz Tate, Meagan Good, Lamman Rucker and husband-and-wife hosts Boris Kodjoe and Nicole Ari Parker, along with singer Tamar Braxton; model-actor Tyson Beckford; and the late designer Michael Knight.

“It’s always packed and exciting,” Hatton-Ficklin said of the event.

Each year, Timmons sets a theme for the show. (The 2023 theme, and hosts, haven’t been shared yet.)

Like many other shows, Designer’s Choice took a hiatus in 2020 due to the pandemic. It was especially jarring for the organizers as the show is traditionally held on the first Saturday of every April and things lock down in mid-March of that year.

“One of the things I think Theresa did a great job [with], and it’s still relevant — letting people know we’re still here, and will be back,” said Hatton-Ficklin. “It gives audiences something to look forward to. He can keep pushing that thing out there and make sure that people don’t forget. He constantly posts pictures on his Facebook page, [trying] to do something to let you know we’re not leaving.”

Covid also disrupted summer youth camps, but continues virtually, said Hatton-Ficklin, telling of how Timmons put together packages for kids to do projects at home.

This camp is held around the same time each summer at Arkansas Baptist College.

“Kids really look forward to it,” says Hatton-Ficklin. “Of course there’s visual arts, there’s music. … One of the greatest things I enjoy about summer camp is the last day.” That’s when the kids get together for a performance featuring everything they learned at camp — acting, singing, playing an instrument, etc. “And it’s great.”

The kids even made their costumes — “whatever they were going to wear that night for the production. They did a full production… and it was amazing.”

Field trips every Friday are also part of the camp.

“We are always looking for sponsors to help us expose these kids to different activities and things they can do over the summer,” she says. Children are provided breakfast, lunch and snacks daily at camp, so the foundation is also seeking sponsors to donate water, Gatorade, popsicles and snacks.

One of the best aspects is that camp veterans sometimes come back to pay them, continued Hatton-Ficklin.

“We have kids who were raised in camps… and then they come back and donate their time. It’s always an eye opener.”


New features for 2023 Designer’s Choice are guided by its new premises. It has moved from what was the Metroplex Events Center in west Little Rock to The Venue in Westwind, a former church that also houses another of Timmon’s creations… Westwind School for the Performing Arts in North Little Rock.

Also, “Theresa is always looking [feature] a different kind of designer,” said Hatton-Ficklin. “I think it’s going to be something different to look forward to.” As well as Momolu, models will be showcasing the creations of fellow show veteran Tremaine Pollydore along with Ty Jackson, Cortez K. Miles, Tierra Macon, Felix Milton, Oliver M. Fitzpatrick, Tiffany Pippins, Jimmy and Angel Beasley, and Jayla Lee.

Oh, and here’s a surprising fact: “I’ve never seen that show,” says Hatton-Ficklin.

“I heard applause. I heard screams. I heard all of it.” But he had to settle for seeing the video of the show afterward. He looked forward to that change one day.

“One of the things I’ve always thought about is that great leaders always train someone to be in control. That’s my goal… to make sure that I have someone I can coach… And that’s when I’ll be able to see the show.”


Hatton-Ficklin summarizes her volunteering role with Designers’ Choice and the foundation as “a great journey”.

“I just enjoy doing what I do,” he added. His motto, attributed to the late Muhammad Ali as well as Shirley Chisholm: Service is the rent you pay for a room here on earth.

“A lot of times when volunteers do something, we don’t do it for attention, and we don’t do it for recognition. But we certainly expect the people we do to be appreciated. So when someone says ‘I see you,’ it makes it all the more [like] ‘Okay, I’m fine. I did what I was supposed to do.'”

Designers’ Choice Fashion Preview, benefiting the Timmons Arts Foundation, April 1, The Venue at Westwind, 7318 Windsong Drive, North Little Rock. 6:30pm VIP reception; 7 p.m. general admission; 7:30pm -show with featured designers and music artists. Tickets $45-$80; For more information about the foundation and its summer youth camps, email [email protected]

Photo For several years, Brenda Hatton-Ficklin has served as a volunteer, working the “front of the house,” at Designers’ Choice Fashion Previews, a fashion fundraiser for the Timmons Arts Foundation. “Other people are comfortable with me being up front,” he said. “I almost feel like I need it [two-way] radio in my hand, when you get used to it. This is very fun.” (Arkansas Democratic Gazette/Helaine R. Williams)

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