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.
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.