By Tara Jones -

LIMA — Panda Express opened its doors for the first time Wednesday, and announced that 20 percent of all launch day proceeds will be benefiting the Lima Family YMCA.

The popular chain held a ribbon cutting ceremony on its newest location at 3200 Elida Road in Lima. Multi-Unit Manager Patrick Arthur said partnering with community organizations within their markets is part of the Panda Express value system.

“As a company, one of our values is giving,” Arthur said. “The YMCA is an organization many people know, and we want to see a great impact to that place and the community very quickly.”

Those proceeds will be going toward the YMCA’s high school robotics team, the Bean City Bots, according to YMCA Team Development Director Sarah Bogardus.

The team, consisting of students from elementary to high school, builds robots from scratch and competes across the state. Most robotics teams the Bots compete against are made up of about 50 kids. Their team last year consisted of nine students, so this donation will go a long way to growing the program, Bogardus said.

“Although we had a much smaller budget, we were in the top ten of nearly every event,” she said. “It was awesome when Panda Express reached out and wanted to support what they were doing because (the students) are doing it pretty much on their own with the help of their mentors.”

The Bots begin their season in January, and most of the budget goes toward transportation and hotels for their statewide competitions.

Panda Express assistant manager Dion Conde said Lima was a market that presented itself and Panda Express took advantage. Conde is a nationwide company representative based out of Texas who is staying in town for three months to assist with training the new local managerial staff.

“I’m excited that we get to offer the community something and allows for more growth for others,” he said. “The people entering Panda Express may have no idea what it’s about, but once they get a taste, that opens up more opportunities for others.”

The Asian-inspired menu consists of Panda Express classics like orange chicken, ‘SweetFire’ chicken and honey walnut shrimp. It will also introduce items from the WokSmart menu, like mushroom chicken, broccoli beef and black pepper chicken.

“One thing we pride ourselves in is that it’s American Chinese food,” Arthur said. “It is Chinese inspired but a lot of our flavors are from different parts of the world.”

The chain was also conducting open interviews during its launch day in hopes to find staff members interested in buying into the Panda Express motto inspired by a Chinese proverb: “Make happy happen to those who are near, and those who are far will come.”

By Tara Jones

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