(WFRV) – In February, WFRV Local 5 recognized four remarkable women doing great things in our community; the winner got a chance to go to New York City to be recognized with women across the country on the Mel Robbins Show. But then the Coronavirus pandemic hit.

Everyone, save essential workers, were under orders to restrict their movements except for limited trips to obtain necessities. Local 5 News Anchor Erin Davisson recently checked back with our women to see what they’ve been up to in the weeks since we last saw them.

Our winner – Ashwaubenon kindergarten teacher Kathy Kurowski – says she’s missing her students terribly with school closed. But she’s still teaching remotely – and still hearing about her win from many people, including friends and neighbors.

Says Kurowski, “Since it happened, oh my gosh, the outpouring was beautiful.”

And that’s exactly what Mel Robbins, host of the Mel Robbins Show, had been hoping for when she decided to join Nexstar’s nationwide recognition of Remarkable Women. Says Robbins, “Coming from a small town and recognizing local heroes that are making a difference in their families and their communities – I was all in!”

Since the pandemic hit, many things have changed. While Kurowski wasn’t able to go to New York because of travel restrictions, she has managed to continue with her non-profit, ‘Handbags for Hope’, which gives donated handbags full of toiletries to women in need.

Kurowski says she was recently able to collect and donate 140 purses that were added to a semi-truckload of donations headed to Mississippi.

Finalist Lori Schmitz is still sharing food in her community through the Holyland Food Pantry  in Calumet and Fond du Lac Counties.  But the pantry now helps those in need with social distancing in mind.

Explains Schmitz, “The clients simply drive up. They don’t get out of their vehicle, they identify who they are and we take their products to the car.”

COVID-19 restrictions have affected hospitals, and that’s temporarily put a pause on Riah’s Rainbow, Micki Klein’s effort to bring arts and crafts to sick children, in honor of her young daughter Riah, who died from pediatric cancer.

Says Klein, “With kids having cancer and being immune-compromised, it’s just really really hard. I think its too great of a risk at this point to send anything out.” 

And she has sympathy for parents who have sick children during the pandemic. Klein advises parents, “just take a deep breath, be grateful that you are with your child, and love them up.”

Restrictions have also made it hard for family caregivers. Cindy Thompson, of Family Caregivers Rock, says she has heard from the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Brown County that their book, ‘A Lonely Journey’, is providing comfort.

Explains Thompson, “The book we were involved in; the book has been so beneficial they are hearing from their caregivers that reading it has really helped them.”  Now, with her non-profit on pause, Thompson has been helping the American Red Cross, making cloth masks, and delivering food at the local food pantry. She says it keeps her busy, and keeps her mind on other things.

That’s the way all of our Remarkable Women are weathering the uncertainty of this time  – with generosity.

Schmitz elaborates, ” I think it’s important….to just remind people that we will get through this. It can be really scary if you let yourself get mired in the fear, or you can just lift your hand and help someone else, and just everyday go forward through it.”

And Robbins hopes that the trials of the pandemic may change us for the better. Says Robbins, “My hope is when we emerge, we will emerge with resilience, we will emerge with a perspective that only a situation like this can give you, and we will emerge with a deeper sense of gratitude for the things that perhaps we were taking for granted.”

Finally, you might be wondering about Kurowski’s canceled trip to New York City. She says that she has vouchers for both the airline and the hotel, along with promises that she will be able to use both once travel restrictions are lifted.