Bethenny Frankel, an entrepreneur and Shark Tank guest judge, never thought of herself as a philanthropist. That is, until several natural disasters in North America left millions without water, power, and basic needs to survive. That's when she sprang into acton.
"You have to be a strong person," Frankel says. "Because relief work is not all rainbows and unicorns."
Frankel, who grew to fame through her appearance on the reality series Real Housewives of New York City and the popularity of her Skinnygirl cocktail mix company, launched BStrong in December of 2016. The charitable organization works with Delivering Good, a national disaster relief charity, and Global Empowerment Mission, a multi-organization non-profit, to help individuals effected by hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.
After hurricanes destroyed parts of Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and Dominica, and two earthquakes struck Mexico, Frankel decided to get involved. BStrong has distributed cash, gift cards, food and medical supplies to people in those areas, according to BStrong and Global Empowerment Mission. What's more, Frankel has personally paid for her volunteer's travel, food and logistics.
"People keep calling me a philanthropist and I don't necessarily think of myself that way," Frankel says. "I was a business person and the ball was being dropped and I needed to get things done."
While Frankel may not have much experience with philanthropy, she says she excels at organizing large events and balancing budgets. After volunteering in Houston and Mexico, she heard the situation in Puerto Rico was dire, and decided that the island would be her next destination. Shortly after she chartered a plane there, several others started to do the same. Frankel helped organize them into missions so the planes were loaded with volunteers and supplies.
"People want to show up on a plane because it makes them feel good, but you have to be organized," Frankel says. "Who are we helping and how are we helping them and what are we helping them with?"
Frankel has been very active in Puerto Rico, where nearly half the population is still without electricity almost two months after the storm hit, according to NPR. She's chartered three planes to bring volunteers and supplies to Puerto Rico, and brought more than 100 people from the island to the mainland. Her initiative has collected and distributed about 4,800 pounds of non-perishable food from Feeding America and City Harvest, about $30,000 in gift cards from LawCash, and $25,000 in Costco gift cards, distributed through Banco de Alimentos de Puerto Rico, a member of Feeding America.
The BStrong Delivering Good fund has raised more than $800,000 for cash cards since the initiative was launched on Sept. 29, according to BStrong and the Global Empowerment Mission. But Frankel's work hasn't stopped with the holiday; she plans to return to Puerto Rico this week with supplies, cash and gift cards.