By Jarrett Barrios, Los Angeles Region CEO
For my military knowledge, though I’m plucky and adventury,
Has only been brought down to the beginning of the century;
But still in matters vegetable, animal, and mineral,
I am the very model of a modern Major-General.
I’ve been singing that famous song from Gilbert & Sullivan’s masterful operetta, Pirates of Penzance, since seeing the wonderful production at the Pasadena Playhouse last week. The Playhouse is just one of many amazing institutions in Pasadena. Another organization with roots in Pasadena—whose generosity and power of giving resonates with an equal strength—is Panda Restaurant Group (Panda). And given this Gilbert & Sullivan song in my head, I’ve taken to calling Panda the very model of a modern major humanitarian partner!
Every now and then an extra-special donor comes forward, an individual or company that is willing to go the extra mile and do whatever it takes to give as much as possible in support of helping people prepare for or recover from emergencies and disasters. Panda is one of those donors, and with this past year’s unprecedented series of disasters, they’ve stepped-up, going above and beyond anything we could have ever expected and simultaneously, proving themselves as philanthropic leaders among the Los Angeles businesses community.
For over a decade, Panda has made it a practice to feed Red Cross volunteers and first-responders working wildfires and other disasters. It is quite common to find yourself in a food line at disaster headquarters, only to smell the delicious orange chicken from Panda. On some occasions, Panda has even helped provide food for shelter residents. In fact, for Hurricane Harvey alone, the Panda Express location in the Houston, TX area provided a total of 400 in-kind-donation lunches at a Red Cross shelter and an additional 450 meals to our shelter and Disaster Response command center in Dallas, TX.
Panda and its customers have also been extraordinarily generous, financially. As you know, our mission depends on the generosity of donors throughout the year. However, when large-scale disasters occur, let alone back-to-back large-scale disasters like the ones that hit America last fall, we look to our most trusted partners to help us support the expenses of providing life-saving services.
For Hurricane Harvey, the Red Cross gave $400 to more than 573,000 households severely affected by the storm. That’s more than $229 million in direct financial assistance. And, along with our partners, we have served more than 4.5 million meals and snacks in Texas and Louisiana. Hurricane Irma was also devastating. Again, the Red Cross was there to provide assistance and support in the form of meals, snacks, water, supplies and a safe place to stay. For Irma relief efforts, along with our partners, we have served more than 1.5 million meals and snacks across six states. And, to help people recover and get back on their feet, the Red Cross has opened more than 11,400 cases, reaching more than 38,900 people across Florida.
On our side again during an hour of great need, was the Cherng Family, their company Panda Restaurant Group and its philanthropic arm, Panda Cares. The Cherngs invited employees and customers from Panda Express stores worldwide to contribute to Red Cross disaster relief. In just three weeks, they raised more than $1.8 million— $1,843,302.50 to be exact— through a customer donation program that included nearly 2,000 donation stations at their restaurants and in their Support Center. I could not be more thankful for the lives saved, changed and impacted by their generosity, and I am thankful to have been able to be there in person, to accept their heartfelt donation on behalf of the American Red Cross.
As our world grows more complex and as new technologies emerge, new strategies to assist in humanitarian relief efforts also surface. The very modern approach of leveraging an international network and engaging an amazing staff to support this effort, has enabled Panda to become a very major partner of the Red Cross. We couldn’t be more grateful for that support!
Last month, Los Angeles Region Board Member, Ryan Patel made a personal appearance at Panda Restaurant Group’s headquarters in Rosemead, CA to deliver a special thank you for the company’s generous contributions. After his visit with the company, Ryan shared his thoughts with me. “Andrew and Peggy Cherng have a tremendous story in how they’ve built their family startup business to a billion-dollar company. But, their philanthropy hasn’t wavered as Panda Cares continues to grow. It is truly great to see how their entire company continues to make an impact in the communities they are serving.”
This is not the first time Panda Cares has made an impact with giving. All in, Panda Cares has raised $61 million to support underserved children and disaster relief efforts. Personally, I find it inspiring to see the Panda family come together in support of the Red Cross, and it is refreshing to see a working environment where employees are encouraged to support non-profit services in their communities. Thank you Panda Cares!
Jarrett Barrios is the Chief Executive Officer at the American Red Cross Los Angeles Region. But, above all, Jarrett Barrios is a humanitarian with more than 20 years experience helping people in need throughout the United States and Cuba.
To learn more about Jarrett Barrios or the America Red Cross Los Angeles Region, visit RedCrossLA.org.