The Salvation Army National Donut Day

This year marks the 100th anniversary of World War I, where the Salvation Army Donut Lassie was born. Salvation Army “Doughnut Girls” served along the front lines during WWI and WWII, giving soldiers free coffee and doughnuts.

National Donut Day was started in 1938 in Chicago to honor of The Salvation Army “Doughnut Girls.” This unofficial holiday is celebrated the first Friday in June.

In 1917, The Salvation Army began a mission to provide spiritual and emotional support for U.S. soldiers fighting in France during World War I. About 250 volunteers traveled overseas and set up small huts located near the front lines where they could give soldiers clothes, supplies and, of course, baked goods.

After discovering that serving baked goods would be difficult considering the conditions of the huts and the limited rations, two volunteers – Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance – began frying donuts in soldiers’ helmets. These tasty treats boosted morale and won the hearts of many soldiers. 

Nicknamed “Donut Lassies,” the women who served donuts to troops are often credited with popularizing the donut in the United States when the troops (nicknamed “doughboys”) returned home from war. 

During World War I, Donut Lassies served coffee and donuts to soldiers in the trenches. Rations were poor so the donut idea was conceived as a means of bringing the soldiers cheer. Donuts were not the reason Salvation Army workers were in the fighting zones of France; they were there primarily to give spiritual aid and comfort to the American soldier and his allies. They were there to be a link with home and family. The Salvation Army continued to provide comfort, care and donuts to American soldiers during World War II.

The Salvation Army National Donut Day

The Salvation Army National Donut Day

In Chicagoland, The Salvation Army commemorates Donut Day by raising awareness and support for its services to those in need, including providing shelter, food, early childhood education, after-school programming, music education, alcohol and substance abuse rehabilitation and more.

This year, we are pleased to announce our partnership with Chicago’s gourmet donut shop, Glazed and Infused. Glazed and Infused will donate 50% of proceeds from purchases of the Salvation Army donut on June 2. Stop by one of their five downtown sites, or celebrate National Donut Day with your colleagues by scheduling a donut delivery to your office!

 If you’re not in downtown Chicago, don’t fret! We have also partnered with Clyde’s Donuts, which are sold at Jewel-Osco locations. Our Salvation Army volunteers and staff will be throughout Chicago and the suburbs collecting donations and handing out coupons for two free Clyde’s Donuts.

Thank you to our corporate partners and volunteers who help make National Donut Day special!

Volunteers are needed to help during Donut Days. Visit our volunteer page to sign up.

79th Annual National Donut Day Fun Facts:

Salvation Army:

  • The Salvation Army started National Donut Day during the Great Depression as a way to raise funds and bring awareness to The Salvation Army’s social service programs.
  • National Donut Day commemorates the “donut lassies,” female Salvation Army volunteers who provided writing supplies, stamps, clothes-mending and home-cooked meals, and of course, donuts, for soldiers on the front lines.
  • Approximately 250 Salvation Army volunteers provided assistance to American soldiers in France starting in 1917 during WWI.
  • With limited resources, these treats were fried, only seven at a time. The Salvation Army’s Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance cleverly thought of frying donuts in soldiers’ helmets.
The Salvation Army National Donut Day

The Salvation Army Donut Day Donation