The Donut Girls


Perhaps you’ve stood at The Salvation Army’s red kettle when a donor relayed their story to you: “Back in the war, The Salvation Army gave their donuts away for free, while others charged money for them.” The Donut Girls and their service in the two World Wars birthed a legacy that we can be proud of.

The ladies were barely out of their teen years, but when the U.S. got into World War I, they signed up through The Salvation Army to travel to Europe to help with the war effort. They thought they would just be doing the same things that they did at home: sing some music to relax the troops, hold religious services to keep their souls and minds refreshed, talk to the soldiers to remind them of what they were fighting for back home. But donuts? That was not part of the plan. They didn’t even bring cooking supplies with them! Each lady was given a gas mask and a revolver, not a whisk or a cookie sheet.

While The Salvation Army sent about 250 volunteers, the donut phenomenon can really be traced back to four ladies who got an idea in their heads and showed remarkable resourcefulness and ingenuity to make it happen. They collected excess flour for the dough. They used shell casings and wine bottles as rolling pins. They fried the donuts in a soldier’s helmet. In a typical day, two of the women cooked 2,500 donuts, 100 cupcakes, 50 pies, 800 pancakes and 255 gallons of hot cocoa. The other two served all of it to the soldiers. That is quite the day!

They became a fixture in the camps during World War I and World War II—always a welcome sight to the soldiers. They became a phenomenon and a symbol recognized throughout the Western world for their courage, creativity and hard work on behalf of the soldiers fighting for their country. They didn’t realize they would become icons. They just thought they were making donuts.


The Donut Girls thought outside the box and had the resourcefulness to find a creative solution.  The end result was a phenomenon that has reverberated through the decades and financially supported The Salvation Army for generations.  What are some challenges in your life that might require a creative solution? How can you make it happen with unorthodox methods and materials?

Join us Tuesday June 4th at The Salvation Army (1700 South Burdick Street) for a wonderful donut sprinkle spectacular event where someone will be crowned the donut eating champion. 

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.