Thursday, January 18, 2007

From The Tulsa World

By MANNY GAMALLO World Staff Writer

An idea by a Tulsa woman and her Army husband for a coffee shop in Iraq now has troops in Baghdad singing high praises.
Cuppa Joes officially opened on Christmas Eve at Camp Striker in Baghdad and was an immediate hit with soldiers stationed there.
What they were treated to was real coffee from home, cookies, candies, popcorn, movies -- all sorts of things donated by caring people across the United States.
"The troops were thrilled when they walked in there, to see things not from the Army, but from people at home who care," Andrea Aitken said Friday from her home at Fort Drum, N.Y.
She and her husband, Maj. Mark Aitken, came up with the idea to do something meaningful for the troops after he returned in May from a tour of duty in Iraq.
They settled on the idea to run a coffee shop at Camp Striker.
The name for the place was born one night while she was brainstorming with her mother and father, Thomas and Cindy Mansur of Tulsa.
Aitken, the leader of the 1-89 Family Readiness group at Fort Drum, immediately went to work promoting the idea through newsletters and fliers and asking for donations to make it happen.
Meanwhile, her husband shipped out to Iraq again
in August with his outfit -- the 1st Squadron, 89th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, based at Fort Drum.
With the outfit went its chaplain, Capt. Danny Wilson, and Andrea Aitken credited him with getting the coffee shop up and running at Camp Striker.
"He went about collecting lumber and other supplies to build Cuppa Joes and had it ready for Christmas Eve," she said.
Aitken said that after her newsletters and fliers went out, the donations to supply the coffee shop started pouring in from residents, businesses and church groups.
More donations followed after CNN featured Cuppa Joes and her efforts on one of its news rr programs, she said.
Aitken described herself as an "Army brat" with long family ties to Tulsa.
She noted that her grandfather, Cline Mansur, ran an engineering company in Tulsa for nearly 60 years, and her father, Thomas Mansur, also is a civil engineer in Tulsa.
Her grandfather was a retired Army colonel, and her father retired from the Army as a lieutenant colonel.
Aitken and her husband have been married for six years and have a son, Ewan.
She said her husband is a Briton who was raised in the San Antonio area. They met in Korea, where her father was stationed.
Aitken joked about her life as an Army brat.
"We moved 17 times in 21 years," she said.
Although Cuppa Joes is up and running, Aitken said more donations are needed to keep it operating.
She said anyone who wants to know what or how to donate should e-mail her at:
Aitken also has started a new mission -- "Operation Backpack" -- aimed at providing Iraqi children with school supplies and other necessities.
She is leading that effort again through newsletters and fliers, asking Americans to donate what they can for the children.

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