Natinal Donut Day, June 7, carries on long Salvation Army tradition

Thursday, June 6, 2019
Cover the Salvation "War Cry" Magazise, published November 9, 1918.
Contributed Image

National Donut Day, Friday, June 7, honors the Salvation Army “Lassies,” or “Donut Lassies,” the women who served donuts to combat soldiers during World War I.

In line with the Salvation Army’s consistent mission to help and assist the needy and the homeless, the first memorial Donut Day was established in 1938 as a fundraiser. The goal of the original Donut Day was to assist those in the Chicago area suffering from poverty and homelessness during the Great Depression.

The inspiration for the holiday came from a program during World War I, in which about 250 Salvation Army volunteers went to France, where they felt they could provide emotional and spiritual support to American soldiers fighting on the front lines. Prior to the dispatch of the volunteers, the Salvation Army had conducted a “fact-finding” mission to the European battlefields, which concluded that a good deal of the peripheral needs of the soldiers could be provided by “huts” or small social centers which would serve baked goods, provide writing supplies and stamps, and mend the men’s clothing when needed.

Two Salvation Army volunteers, Ensign Margret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance, came up with the idea of providing donuts. The donuts and other baked goods provided at the “huts” were said to have been an “instant hit” with the soldiers. Margret Sheldon, after one particularly busy day, wrote that she had made “22 pies, 300 donuts, and 700 cups of coffee.”

The women who did this work soon came to be known as “Donut Lassies.”

By the Second World War, Red Cross volunteers had also begun to distribute donuts and it became routine to refer to the Red Cross volunteers at “Donut Dollies.”

It has been said that the term “doughboys” referred to those soldiers who so readily received the ministrations of the Donut girls, but, in fact, that term was used for soldiers as early in history as the Spanish-American War and is not directly connected to the efforts of the Salvation Army’s mission.

In Chicago, and other cities nationwide, National Donut Day is still a fundraiser to support the Salvation Army’s ongoing mission work.

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