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Panda Express opens with free food

Panda Express offered free lunch to 100 family members of deployed personnel during the restaurant's grand opening here July 5, 2006.  (Photo by Airman 1st Class Julius Delos Reyes)

Panda Express offered free lunch to 100 family members of deployed personnel during the restaurant's grand opening here July 5, 2006. (Photo by Airman 1st Class Julius Delos Reyes)

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Panda Express celebrated the opening of its first restaurant in a military installation July 5 at the Oasis Community Center here.

Panda Express provided free catered lunch to family members of deployed personnel and donated 100 percent of the day's gross sales to the Teen Center.

"Whenever we open a restaurant, we want a celebration," said Tom Davin, Panda Express chief executive officer. "We want to introduce ourselves to the community properly. We believe in giving back, so giving away food to the community and bringing people in to understand what we are all about is a great way to make a first impression."

This is actually a culmination of two-years of effort, hard work and patience, said Col. H. Brent Baker Sr., 95th Air Base Wing commander. "I would like to thank the (95th Civil Engineer and Transportation Directorate) and the (95th Services Division) who worked so hard in getting all of this done and all of our partners."

The Panda Express team looked for an opportunity to open a restaurant in a military installation and went to different installations nationwide to find a good location for Panda, Mr. Davin said.

The Panda location in Edwards is not really a typical location, which generally would be near the military exchanges, he said. However, the location is convenient because it is near the dormitories and the enlisted club.

As part of Panda Express "giving back" to the community the team donated $3,796 to the Teen Center.

"It is such a nice surprise that Panda Express donated their revenue, and it was really appreciated that they are doing this great thing for the community," said Paul La Bella, Teen Center coordinator.

The Teen Center plans to spend the money on their different outdoor adventure programs which include camping, horseback riding and white water rafting, he said.

"On behalf of the Teen Center staff and all the Edwards teens, we thank Panda Express for their generosity," Mr. La Bella said.

The restaurant also provided free food to 100 previously deployed Airmen and family members of currently deployed Team Edwards members.

"I think that it's great that Panda Express is providing free food to 100 family members," said Senior Airman Melissa Cruz, Rosburg Fitness Center aerobics instructor, who was previously deployed to Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan. "I think that with Panda Express being here, it brings up morale to the Airmen and the community. It is a great thing that Panda Express is here because Edwards is so far away from (the nearest Panda Express). That way there is somewhere we can go. We don't have to travel off base, and its good food on base."