The garage of OTB president Renzo Rosso’s house in Bassano del Grappa has been temporarily converted into a warehouse. But forget Diesel jeans and sweatshirts, or cool Maison Margiela designs. Rosso’s wife Arianna Alessi, vice president of the OTB Foundation, which since 2008 has been active in the development of a range of social responsibility projects worldwide, is actually using the garage to stock the thousands of products the charity institution is buying for hospitals, retirement houses and foster homes in Italy.
Instead of making a multimillion euro donation to a major institution, when two months ago the coronavirus emergency hit the country, Alessi decided that the OTB Foundation should take a different approach.
“Knowing our country, its difficulties and its bureaucracy, we decided that it would have been more effective to be at the forefront instead of just financing a project managed by someone else,” said Alessi. “Reading the newspapers and watching the news, we immediately realized that all the major donations were directed to the biggest hospitals, so we decided to focus on smaller hospitals and institutions.”
In keeping with this active approach, Alessi started talking to doctors and nurses to clearly understand the procedures required to treat COVID-19 and what was really necessary to help them.
“Through hundreds of phone calls, we managed to make a detailed, customized list of things to buy, spanning from face masks to ventilators, and through the global OTB network we managed to reach suppliers across the globe to buy them and have them delivered here in Bassano at home, where we redirect the shipments to the different entities we want to help,” Alessi explained. “It’s very much like being on the front, it’s very intense but we are seeing the actual results of what we do.”
Since the kickoff of the coronavirus crisis, the OTB Foundation has donated 300,000 surgical masks, 350,000 filter masks, as well as 20,000 items, including scrubs, shoe covers and hand sanitizer gels, to Italian hospitals and retirement homes. In addition, the foundation sourced and distributed 30 sophisticated air cleaners, conceived by NASA and usually employed in space missions, which purify rooms without ozone emissions, 50 helmets for breathing assistance, 80 full face masks to isolate COVID-19 patients and severals iPads, enabling patients to remain connected with their families.
While the OTB Foundation decided to mainly operate in suburban areas or smaller cities, it also supported the work to convert an area of Milanese Fatebenefratelli Sacco hospital’s pediatric department into a dedicated COVID-19 ward.
“This is an example of the importance of having a direct line with hospitals to understand their needs,” said Alessi. “The chief of pediatrics there told me that in his ward there were four rooms that could have been available to host COVID-19 patients. So we immediately rolled up our sleeves and we created 24 beds.”
In addition, the charity foundation is giving doctors and nurses who tested positive for the virus but don’t need treatments to do the quarantine at Bassano del Grappa’s Piccolo Brennero hotel in order to limit infections within families. It’s also donating medicines, children’s products and food to families in need living in the towns of Bassano del Grappa and Sciacca, Sicily, and provided Bassano del Grappa’s ambulances with devices to disinfect and sanitize.
“The situation is fast evolving and now we are starting to get more and more requests from people who have no money to buy food for their families,” said Alessi, highlighting not only the health but also the economic impact of the crisis on the country.
In addition, with Italian companies expected to reopen in May, while kindergartens and schools will remain closed, Alessi revealed that the OTB Foundation is currently organizing a service of nannies for the children of OTB’s employees.
While she prefers not to communicate the economic value of the foundation’s activities to support the fight against the coronavirus, Alessi said that Rosso gave her carte blanche. “Renzo [Rosso] told me ‘everything we need to do’ and there is actually a lot to do.”
In keeping with OTB Foundation’s active involvement in fighting the virus, all Italian OTB executives voluntarily donated a minimum of five of their contractual paid leave days collecting a sum exceeding 500,000 euros, which will be distributed among lower-income employees of the group inactive and in need because of COVID-19. In addition, Rosso decided to waive 50 percent of his salary as president of the fashion group.