Leather companies have supported the voluntary associations present in the industrial districts to offer concrete help to people in difficulty. And the presentation of the book “#Iosiamo” by Tiziana Di Masi and Andrea Guolo at the Spazio Lineapelle in Milan was the perfect opportunity to give a voice to all those who, in the tanning sector, are socially committed.

Volunteering means committing and putting yourself on the line, giving your time to aid others to build personal and social value.
There are about 6 million volunteers in Italy. They deal with all kinds of needs, poverty and emergencies. Since 2018, Tiziana Di Masi (actress, former interpreter of “Mafias in the pot” and “All I’m about to tell you is false”) and Andrea Guolo (journalist and author) have staged the theatrical show #Iosiamo throughout Italy: from the debut at the Elfo Puccini Theater (Milan) to theaters in over 30 cities. Now the show is being transformed and finds a home on paper, in a book that tells true stories of characters, associations, counters, reception centres, listening centres… Twelve chapters, twelve different aspects of helping people who are weaker, those who are denied their rights, those who have to rebuild their lives, those in need of support in case of illness and natural disasters, children, the artistic heritage of our country. Twelve appeals to each of us, to join, within the limits of our possibilities, this wonderful “army of goodness”, and move from I to we, as the hashtag of the title suggests.

For Tiziana Di Masi “it was nice to switch from telling the worst of humanity (mafias and counterfeiting) to talking about something beautiful. I immersed myself in the simple happiness of volunteers, like Mario who managed to overcome depression by taking care of a disabled person”.

The brilliant idea, as well as the good news, is this: every presentation of the book, as well as every theatrical performance, gave voice to stories that are not present in the show and in the volume, but which have never been lacking in each place where Di Masi and Guolo stopped by.

This also happened during the presentation hosted by UNIC. The stories of volunteer tanners are certainly not lacking. “95% of the tanning companies – noted Fulvia Bacchi, CEO of Lineapelle – are family-run, and therefore very tied to the territory in which they operate. During the pandemic, many entrepreneurs invested time and money, and together with their collaborators they created PPE’s that would come to the the aid of their fellow citizens. Our sector is used to face difficulties. It is not just capable of expressing creativity and production, but also a lot of solidarity”.

Fulvia Bacchi, CEO of Lineapelle, between Tiziana Di Masi and Andrea Guolo, “#Iosiamo” book authors

Volunteer stories in the tanning sector

If only the Arno, in Santa Croce, could speak, the first word it would say would be: “Misericordia”. Because the great river knows this institution of the country well. For almost two hundred years, the flow of its waters has accompanied the activities of the Misericordia community, which survived two world wars and now also the war against the pandemic. And it survived it tirelessly. A few numbers? From March 2020 to May 2021, more than one thousand ordinary and 650 emergency medical transports, eight mask collection trips on behalf of the Municipality, 119 shopping services at the supermarket for virus-positive families, and we could go on until tomorrow. Eight employees and about fifty volunteers guard the Santacrocese territory to guarantee a series of services that, without them, simply would not exist. Piero Conservi, governor of the Misericordia community, takes two images of this difficult period with him. The first one regards the eyes of the volunteers, the only visible part of their body, all covered with protections when they went to the home of infected people to take them to the hospital: eyes that smiled to reassure patients, to make them understand that they could count on them. The second one is the smile of patients, reaching out their hand to make those men and women, dressed as Martians understand, that they trusted them. And for the volunteers, the scene of the day when patients returned home was even more suprising: surprising because, despite the harness they were wearing, they recognised those who had taken them to the hospital, with the fear of not surviving, and now that they made it, they were the ones who brought them back to life. What was Covid for Piero? “One day I will tell my grandchildren that in a small town, where everyone had a good social life and knew each other, suddenly everything changed and nothing could be done. But the volunteers continued. Their activity could not be stopped, because in Santa Croce there were people who could not be left alone: there were people in need of help. And in that moment the volunteers felt indispensable”. Now that hopefully everything is over, those of the Misericordia community are preparing for the first post-Covid inauguration: a brand new ambulance, which should be delivered within two/three months and start its service for the community. “We – says Conservi – put our face to it, knocking door to door to raise funds. And the tanneries, together with the associations of contractors, gave donations. Because it is thanks to leather, to the generosity of businesses, that all this has become possible”.

“In Arzignano we eat ‘bread and skin’, we are a rich town, but we are also good hearted people. We are a community that always responds, each one in his/her own way, to never leave anyone behind”. Paolo De Marzi is a tanning entrepreneur. He founded a company, Euroconciaria, which works third party leather for furniture, cars and leather goods. Today he has three daughters and one hundred employees, but he always finds time to do good to others. “I have always been a volunteer. I started as a teenager, as a boy scout, and then dedicated myself to serve the Ognissanti parish. When my daughters were little I slowed down a bit, because time was short, but now the second one is about to graduate and so I’m back at full capacity. I thus created a non-profit organisation of amateur cooks who go to schools to prepare food for free, and with the proceeds we help the most needy in our valley. When the virus arrived I had to physically stop, but I continued through the internet because there were a lot of things to organise for the restart. The next activity? We want to restart the children’s camp, which has been blocked for two years and funds are needed to restart it, because in the meantime there have always been fixed costs”. But De Marzi binds the best memory of his life as a volunteer to the old men from the retirement home run by nuns, a structure with little funds available and where, in addition to finances, even the blankets were too light. “They were cold, they needed duvets and blankets and we of the parish bought them. And it seemed that we had given them who knows what treasure! Seeing them so happy, in the warmth, gave us so much satisfaction”. De Marzi has a very precise idea of his land, of the Chiampo valley. “Arzignano has a big heart. Just think of the many leather entrepreneurs who have developed projects for the community. Our history is a history of solidarity. The older ones have always donated important amounts, those who could not do it have donated their time. Maybe we are not able to tell what we do as well as we should, but talking is not the important thing. The important thing is doing”.