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She made a name for herself by dealing with a lot of drama on reality TV, but these days, Bethenny Frankel is using her name — and her muscle — to help those affected by the reality of the coronavirus pandemic.
Through her disaster relief initiative, BStrong, the Real Housewives of New York City alum is gearing up to aid those in need.
“This is becoming an absolute crisis and people are scared,” Frankel, 49, tells PEOPLE exclusively.
The Skinnygirl mogul didn’t think she would initially be involved with the coronavirus pandemic. “I’m not a doctor. I’m not a disease specialist or a politician,” she says.
But she decided to get involved when she saw what was happening to kids at the Manhattan school of her 9-year-old daughter, Bryn.
“The school has said that the parents can decide whether to take their children out,” she notes. “I realized that the reason that many public schools in New York aren’t closing is because they serve as a shelter and daycare and meals for children.”
“That made me feel just so sad for people whose children are less fortunate and have to be at school even if the parents don’t want them to,” she says.
“I’m no expert on infectious diseases, but I am a mother and a New Yorker, and instead of living in my own anxieties and fear, I can help less fortunate parents in dealing with theirs,” she explains.
So what exactly is she doing to help? Through the BStrong initiative and their partner, Global Empowerment Mission, she is raising funds to put together what she calls “BStrong corona kits.”
“BStrong corona kits will have the essentials for families to prevent [coronavirus],” Frankel shares. “We will give them masks and gloves and I’ve gotten hydration kits donated and antibacterial and sanitization wipes as well.”
“Our goal is to create 20,000 kits,” she says, and she plans to distribute them for prevention in poverty-stricken areas.
BStrong is also raising money for cash cards to be distributed to parents who cannot afford to keep their children out of school and to help provide lunches. They have already raised $50,000, she says.
“Bstrong is an initiative for people in crisis and this is a crisis,” she says. “My place of yes is taking a terrible situation and finding my way to help — without blame or politics, we simply get involved and do our part.”
When asked how she talks to her daughter about the virus, Frankel says, “I basically tell her the truth.”
“I don’t scare her, I just say, ‘Listen, this is not a joke and I don’t want you to be hugging and kissing this week and I don’t want you sharing food — just keep your distance and don’t talk about it too much at school,’ ” she says.
Like many others, the New York native is staying home more often these days.
“I’m lucky to have a house out of the city which is where I’m going to hide for the foreseeable future,” she shares. “And obviously excessive hand washing and just not really going anywhere public unless you absolutely need to.”
However, Frankel is planning to travel to Tennessee early next week to help those hurt by the recent Nashville tornados.
Working with the BStrong initiative — which has provided relief to people in need after Hurricane Dorian and the recent Australia wildfires — Frankel says she has an 18-wheeler semi truck being loaded with supplies to be distributed by Tuesday.
“We help pets, we help people, we rebuild homes,” she shares. “We have a warehouse filled with aid at all times, ready, up and running to go. The headlines fade and people feel forgotten — but they’re not forgotten.”
To donate to the BStrong initiative, click here.