In 1917, nearing the end of World War I, The Salvation Army established a mission to provide for the needs of U.S. soldiers fighting in France.
Approximately 250 Salvation Army volunteers traveled overseas to set up service “huts” located in abandoned buildings near the front lines where they could serve baked goods, provide writing supplies and stamps, and offer a clothes-mending service to the soldiers in battle.
When providing freshly baked goods proved to be a difficult feat considering the hut’s conditions, two entrepreneurial Salvation Army volunteers named Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance cleverly thought to fry donuts in soldiers’ helmets, despite their limited ingredients and facilities. The sweet treats, along with the warm hearts and glowing smiles of those who served them, brought a bit of comfort to American soldiers who were serving their country and likely missing the care of their mothers and special ladies back home.
Nicknamed “Doughnut Lassies,” these women made history by introducing this otherwise unknown confection to the United States when the “Doughboys” returned from war.
The first National Donut Day was established in Chicago in 1938 to raise money for people in need during the Great Depression. The holiday has since been celebrated on the first Friday in June as a way to commemorate the service of The Salvation Army’s Doughnut Lassies and honor the memory of our soldiers. The donut has become synonymous with The Salvation Army’s social services and continues to be a comfort food served by The Salvation Army to those in need during times of disaster.
More than 80 years later, this sweet day is still celebrated!
The Salvation Army, Spokane
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