On the Circuit with Seth Arenstein Washington, D.C. — On the eve of the 2007 CTAM Summit, we got a close look at the definition of "pitching in" Sunday evening at the Union Mission in Washington, D.C. As cable marketers and other attendees were filing into D.C. for CTAM, employees from The Sportsman Channel were setting tables and chairs for Sunday dinner, preparing to serve more than 100 homeless men.

Unlike other orgs that volunteer their time to serve dinner at the Mission, The Sportsman Channel brought the main course, too. In this case it was several pounds of venison donated by local hunters. Safari Club International’s Sportsmen Against Hunger group coordinated the effort to send excess meat from hunters to the poor, after it’s been properly processed.

But at 2pm Sunday, a problem was discovered—the Mission believed The Sportsman Channel was going to supply cooked meat that merely needed to be warmed. In fact, the pounds of venison delivered weren’t cooked. Fortunately one of dozen or so employees from The Sportsman Channel who donated their Sunday afternoon to feed those less fortunate was Michael Mantie, Sportsman’s director of affiliate relations, Midwest region.

Mick, as everyone calls him, is not only one of cable’s true gentlemen, he also spent 20 years as an executive chef. With just 3 hours separating 100 hungry men from their promised meal, Mick jumped into the fray, walking the boards in front of the ovens in the Mission’s cramped industrial kitchen. After rolling up his sleeves, Mick organized volunteers into an efficient team that formed and cooked more than 200 venison meatballs.

A few hours later a squadron of generously sized meatballs was plump, and starting to emit a smell that said Chef Mick hadn’t lost his touch despite a 20-year hiatus. (None of this was a surprise to his co-workers. Mick’s recipes are a favorite part of the company’s quarterly magazine and the days when he brings his turtle soup to share with co-workers are red letter days.)

When the second shift of volunteers arrived at The Mission—cable execs, NAMIC and NCTA reps and a member of the trade press—the meatballs were emerging from the oven, ready to be joined on the plate by gravy, mashed potatoes, string beans, rolls and salad. For the record, by about 5:30 there was not an uneaten meatball, as cherry and apple pie was being washed down by cups of orange juice and soda.

Two hours later, when the volunteers were treated to a reception at NCTA headquarters, Mick, as modest as he is professional in the kitchen, was in the background.  He turned a shade of red when Michael Cooley rightly recounted Mick’s heroics, just before The Sportsman Channel president presented a $5000 check—that’s Cooley, above left—to the Safari Club’s ongoing "hunters against hunger" effort. (Click here for more on Cooley & Co.’s social outreach.)

Earlier, The Sportsman Channel presented a $1000 check to the Mission. “These people came and volunteered, brought the food AND paid us to be here,” said David Treadwell, the mission’s executive director. “How great is that?” • Click here for more commentary by Seth Arenstein »

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