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Donut Day History Image

Donut Day History

National Donut Day started in 1938 here in Chicago as a tribute to The Salvation Army “Doughnut Lassies” who supported our troops on the front lines during World War I. It is celebrated annually on 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 WWI. 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 WWI, Donut Lassies served coffee and donuts to soldiers in the trenches. Donuts were not the reason The Salvation Army workers were in the fighting zones; 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, and is honored to continue to serve the men and women who have served our nation.

More than a century later, The Salvation Army is still supporting those on the front lines, even when it’s a different kind of battle. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, The Salvation Army has supported essential workers with ramped-up services to help with feeding, emotional healing, childcare, and sewing personal protective equipment.

National Donut Day is held annually on the first Friday in June. For this Donut Day, The Salvation Army will celebrate the work of the original “Donut Lassies” by delivering donuts to healthcare workers and first responders across the country who’ve stepped up to protect others during the COVID-19 pandemic.

82nd Annual National Donut Day Fun Facts:

  • 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.

Kids Coloring Pages

Famous Salvation Army Doughboy Doughnut Recipe

Give a Donut Day Donation