Bethenny Frankel Sends Firefighting Teams and Equipment to Aid Australian Wildfire Relief Efforts
The RHONY star is pledging to continually send containers with equipment and teams on rotation until the wildfires are contained
The Real Housewives of New York City alum, through her disaster relief initiative, BStrong, has been working with her team to send firefighting equipment — amassed from different departments throughout the U.S. — and planes with firefighters from Miami Beach, Florida, to help with the devastating Australian wildfires.
“We’re using money in the most efficient, effective way possible,” Frankel, 49, tells PEOPLE. “I think people like to feel the empowerment of 100 percent of the money they’re donating going not to a salary or rent per se, but actually to help firefighters, animals, people in shelters.”
She adds, “We are speaking directly with the Australian fire officials and coordinating efforts to get our fire teams to Australia, and to be able to have teams coming in and out to sustain the entire fire season, which is only halfway through, so the worst could be yet to come.”
Since September, the wildfires in Australia, mainly in the east in New South Wales and Victoria, have displaced thousands and destroyed entire towns, killing at least 24 people and an estimated one billion animals.
Recently, the Skinnygirl founder posted on Instagram and joined the growing list of celebrities that have pledged to help combat the fires.
“Aside from my personal connection to and love for Australia, this is an international crisis,” she wrote, before she detailed past work that BStrong has done with disaster relief and the multitiered process her team, which works with Global Empowerment Mission, has planned.
With close ties to the country (Frankel has several good friends who live there), the author has been encouraging her followers through social media to donate money to the cause.
However, the most important thing, according to the television personality, is to continue sending support throughout the rebuilding process.
“In every case, BStrong stays through the rebuild. We don’t just leave when the headlines fade,” Frankel tells PEOPLE. “We keep revisiting, we keep a connection to that place.”
BStrong, which Frankel founded in 2017, has taken part in relief efforts in multiple places, including California and the Amazon, as well as Puerto Rico and The Bahamas, where her teams are still working on the ground to date.
“My partner, Michael, is on the ground in Puerto Rico, distributing cash cards to people who’ve lost their homes,” she says. “We are still in The Bahamas now, building 700 roofs for homes and three schools. So, there’s a whole process.”
Though Frankel is overwhelmed by the outpouring of donations to relief efforts, she wants to remind people to follow their money and ensure that it goes to the right place.
“I want to educate people so they can help spread the word but not just through prayers, which are great, but to spread the word about actually donating and also to hold your charitable organizations accountable,” she tells PEOPLE.
She adds, “Look on their website and see if their information is transparent. See if 100 percent is going to relief effort. People are so excited to help, but know where you’re helping. You have to treat it like you’re investing in your stock market.”
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“Every single disaster is the news of the day and it’s what’s to mention in the press. But you have to look at it holistically,” the businesswoman says. “Meghan Markle leaving the Royal Family in a senior way becomes more exciting than this news — people still have to stay engaged because imagine an entire country being on fire. It’s not going to take a day to fix.”