BY CAITLIN O’KANE | CBS News
Bethenny Frankel’s bstrong initiative has provided real-time emergency assistance during natural disasters like hurricanes, wildfires and tornadoes, and now the group is taking on a new challenge: Coronavirus. She says bstrong is currently putting together coronavirus kits to help prevent the spread and ease the burden in the New York City area and beyond.
Frankel told CBS News her team is creating “prevention kits,” which include masks, gloves, antibacterial gels and wipes, SOS Hydration water and DripDrop hydration powder.
“We are assembling 20,000 kits right now,” Frankel told CBS News in a phone interview Monday.
Bstrong partners with Global Empowerment Mission, which has a warehouse in Miami where they store emergency supplies, ready to deploy during the next disaster.
The groups were busy sending supplies to tornado-ravaged Tennessee when they started pivoting to the next crisis, coronavirus. They are still helping with tornado relief, but adding the prevention kits to their action plans.
“We have a truck in Tennessee right now delivering aid,” Frankel said. “Could you imagine being through a natural disaster and then getting corona?”
Frankel started thinking about the coronavirus response after learning about New York City children who could be without meals with schools shut down.
“I didn’t think that bstrong would be involved in corona, because we’re more about disaster relief. This quickly became a disaster,” she said. As a mom, learning about kids in need was Frankel’s “entry point,” she said.
So far, bstrong has raised $63,000 which has been allocated toward cash cards for kids’ lunches and meals that they used to get for free at school, Frankel said. She’s hoping to raise even more money for the cards and is working with local moms to get them into the hands of kids in need.
“We’re working with probably about 80,000 New York PTA moms,” she said, adding that those moms are connected to even more people through parenting groups on Facebook. “So, we’re starting with New York… and then we’re going to try to hit 20 to 30 states,” she said.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio and Governor Andrew Cuomo have expressed concern about the impact of closing schools because so many families rely on them for child care and food programs, CBS New York reports. With schools now closed through at least April 20, the city will continue to hand out boxed meals so thousands of kids won’t go hungry. All New York City children are eligible, whether they attend their neighborhood public school or not, according to CBS New York.
Frankel says her cash cards and kits will go to parents in New York and surrounding areas as well as Boston, and she hopes to continue to expand to other areas.
“I answer all of my Instagram messages,” she said. “People will go, ‘I read about your cash cards, I’m in Jersey. I’m a single mom. I work in a diner. I have a son with autism.’ That was one of the messages. So send that into the pipeline and send them a kit.”
According to Frankel, bstrong has sent over $25 million in aid around the world in the past few years.
“People do want to help, but what do you do? Stand in the middle of the street and sell hand sanitizer like a lemonade stand? People want to help, they just don’t know how,” Frankel said. Right now, she is urging people to help by donating money for the cash cards.
“It gives people dignity, it gives people freedom. And this is a crisis,” Frankel said.
She said 100% of the donations bstrong receives go to aid. The entrepreneur added that she is working on more coronavirus response plans, but they are in the early stages. “You got to build a rocket while flying it,” she said.