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EDWARDS LOGS ON TO THE FUTURE AIRMEN JOIN FORCES WITH COMMUNITY FOR INTERNET CAFE.

Byline: JIM SKEEN

Staff Writer

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE - Thanks to the hard work of base airmen and the generosity of the surrounding community providing the money for amenities, an Internet cafe opened its doors Friday at Edwards Air Force Base.

Offering free coffee and free Internet access, the cafe is intended to provide airmen a relaxing, alcohol-free place to hang out and socialize. Dubbed the Higher Grounds Internet Cafe, the facility was built in what used to be a bare dayroom of one of the base dorms and its furnishing and amenities were funded with more than $30,000 raised by the Civilian-Military Support Group.

"I'm totally impressed by this," said Col. Bryan Gallagher, commander of the 95th Air Base Wing. "The outpouring of generosity takes your breath away."

The cafe includes eight laptop computers airmen can check out, a main room with a 42-inch plasma TV, four pub-style tables with barrel chairs, an industrial coffee/latte/cappuccino machine and a game room with a 50-inch plasma TV and sofas. The cafe also includes a PlayStation 3 and an Xbox 360 game systems and a DVD player.

Aida O'Connor, president of Hanford Home Loans and the founder of the Edwards Air Force Base Civilian Military Support Group, said the airmen had told her that they thought the cafe could be furnished for about $20,000, but after looking it over she thought the project really needed about $30,000.

Once word about the project was out in the community, the group was able to collect more than $30,000 in a manner of a few weeks.

"It's an indication of the support for the base from the entire community," O'Connor said. "I just dialed and asked."

The refurbishing of the dayroom into a cafe was handled by the airmen themselves. The project took about 400 hours of labor to complete, said Staff Sgt. James Shepherd.

"Airmen and airmen's families -- brothers and sisters -- came out to help paint," Shepherd said.

Businesses in the community offered goods either at cost or at substantial discounts. A year's supply of coffee, for example, was purchased at cost.

The Air Force Sergeants Association purchased Internet service for a year for the cafe, Shepherd said.

The Airman's Council, a group that aims to improve the quality of life for base personnel, took the project on about six months ago. The airmen decided they did not want it to look like an Air Force facility, so they sent people out to research the kind of furniture and decorations they would want.

The result is a cafe that would look right at home in a coffee mecca like Seattle or San Francisco.

"It's phenomenal," said Senior Airman April Brisky, who heads up the Airman's Council. "When I first saw it, my jaw dropped. It's fabulous."

Staffed by volunteers, the cafe is open from 6 to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday for the airmen. Weekend hours haven't been sorted out yet.

james.skeen@dailynews.com

(661) 267-5743

CAPTION(S):

2 photos

Photo:

(1) Members of the Edwards AFB Blue Eagles Color Guard help open the Higher Grounds Internet Cafe on Friday.

(2) Staff Sgt. Kori Hillman, left, and Senior Airman Stacey Mastropaolo use the Internet in the Higher Grounds Internet Cafe after the ribbon-cutting ceremony at Edwards AFB on Friday.

Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jul 14, 2007
Words:557
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