Donut Day is On the Way ...

May 19, 2021

The Salvation Army in Chicago celebrated the first National Donut Day in 1938 to help those in need during the Great Depression and to commemorate the work of the “Donut Lassies,” female Salvation Army volunteers who served donuts to soldiers during World War I.

In 1917, The Salvation Army began a mission to provide spiritual and emotional support for U.S. soldiers fighting in France. About 250 volunteers traveled overseas and set up small huts located near the front lines where they could give soldiers writing supplies, stamps, 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. 

The donut now serves as a symbol of the comfort that The Salvation Army provides to those in need through its many social services programs. The Salvation Army still serves donuts, in addition to warm meals and hydration, to those in need during times of disaster. 

Throughout the past year, The Salvation Army has also adapted its services to meet the growing needs of America’s most vulnerable during the COVID-19 pandemic with drive-thru food pantries, increased capacity at emergency shelters, remote emotional and spiritual care through livestream services, care hotlines, and more. Now that things are starting to go back to "normal," The Salvation Army is working hard to make sure that this transition is good news for everyone. Pandemic poverty is real and we hope to ensure that it ends too.

Want to pitch in to help as you celebrate? Even small, donut-sized donations help!


Recent Stories

Get Involved
Share Your Story

We would love to hear about your experience with The Salvation Army.

Share My Story


A gift to The Salvation Army helps someone in your community.

Give Now



Do Good in your community

Find Worship

Join us throughout the week for worship, fellowship, Bible study, meals, community service and fun.