National Donut Day 2020

May 15, 2020 | by Kelli Carver

On the first Friday every June, Americans celebrate one of our favorite sweet treats, donuts.  Donuts are a pretty easy thing to celebrate, but while you may remember someone bringing free donuts into the office last year, or seeing pictures of donuts on social media, you might not know the history behind National Donut Day.  It turns out there is much more than sugar involved with this fun holiday. In fact, Donut Day has a rich history with its roots in “doing the most good.”

The Salvation Army celebrated the first National Donut Day in Chicago in 1938 to help those in need during the Great Depression and to commemorate the work of the “Donut Lassies,” who had served donuts to soldiers during World War I. In April 1917, The Salvation Army began a mission to provide spiritual and emotional support for U.S. soldiers fighting in France. About 250 volunteers eventually traveled overseas to set up small huts near the front lines where they could give soldiers clothes, supplies and, of course, baked goods. Serving baked goods was often difficult, considering the conditions of the huts and the limited rations. Two young salvationists, Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance (who happens to be from Indiana), began frying donuts in a small pan. These tasty treats boosted morale and won the hearts of many soldiers during the war.  Other volunteers joined the effort, and at one point 9,000 donuts were being fried every day on the front lines. 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 on the front lines, in addition to warm meals and hydration, to those in need during times of disaster.

The Salvation Army of Central Indiana is proud to team up once more with 93.1 WIBC, Titus Bakery, and Julian Coffee for National Donut Day this year. Although we must do things a little differently because of the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to serve and appreciate those on the front line during this time of crisis. On June 5, we will be taking our canteen to local Indianapolis hospitals to show our support of healthcare workers and first responders, as well as to various IMPD locations to thank local law enforcement for their service during this challenging time. 

Back by popular demand, WIBC will continue to host the annual #DonutDayIndy donut competition. This year, instead of having a live competition, will have an online ballot so that community members can virtually participate in National Donut Day festivities and vote for their favorite donut while practicing social distancing.  We will also be hosting a Donut Decorating Contest on Facebook so that everyone can join the fun from home!

This family-friendly event is always popular with kids and anyone looking to learn more about the Donut Girl legacy and the history of National Donut Day. When you’re enjoying a tasty donut on June 5, we invite you to consider how you can get involved with The Salvation Army and be a part of doing the most good in Central Indiana!

Stay tuned to see who wins the Best Donut Competition on June 5 by visiting And be sure to take a look at all the fun photos from #DonutDayIndy on Flickr, Facebook, and Twitter!


Calling all volunteers! 

National Donut Day is just around the corner, and while the pandemic has altered our celebration, it has not been canceled and we have a need for virtual volunteers! We are asking for your help writing thank you notes to our front line heroes (healthcare workers, police officers, firefighters, etc.).

If you would like to help us, we are asking interested volunteers to write encouraging messages on 3X5 index cards and mail them to:

The Salvation Army Indiana Divisional Headquarters

6060 Castleway West Drive

Indianapolis, IN 46250

Note cards can be decorated, and children may draw pictures if they like as well! 

Messages can be completely anonymous and do not need to be signed by the sender. All messages and pictures will then be displayed on a poster board at one of our hospital sites for the staff to read and be uplifted by your encouragement and support.

If you have questions about this volunteer opportunity, please visit our volunteer webpage or contact Stevi Cochrane for more information.







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