Northern Division: Serving every county in Minnesota and North Dakota
Strawberry Field Gate and Sign

Eight fun facts you didn’t know about The Salvation Army

Added on Friday, May 12, 2017

Written by Ashley Grossman, social media and content manager for The Salvation Army Northern Division

When you think about The Salvation Army, chances are bell ringing during Christmas and shopping at our family stores are what come to mind. We don’t blame you for thinking that. Although bell ringing and family stores are part of who we are, they only scratch the surface.

This week is National Salvation Army Week, the one week that we celebrate anything and everything that makes us unique – including some not-so-well-known facts about our history. You’d be surprised that there is more to us than meets the eye.

Here is a list of eight facts you probably didn’t know about The Salvation Army.

Drawing of Salvation Army founder William Booth preaching1. The Salvation Army wasn’t actually founded in the United States. Our roots  come from London, England. Former Methodist minister William Booth and his wife Catherine created The Salvation Army in 1865 when they began preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ to the poor, homeless, hungry and destitute of London. It wasn’t until 1880 that The Salvation Army officially came to America.

2. National Salvation Army Week was first declared by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1954. The week was to be a reminder to all Americans to give freely of themselves. Today, The Salvation Army recognizes our volunteers, donors and program beneficiaries who have enabled us to do the most good.

3. The annual Red Kettle Christmas fundraising campaign started in 1891 when a Salvation Army captain in San Francisco set up a crab pot and began collecting money for the poor at Christmas. Since then, the Red Kettle Campaign has become one of the longest-running fundraising efforts in the world. Our kettles can even be seen in Japan, Korea, Chile and throughout Europe.

Donut Lassie Leona Saunders4. The Salvation Army is often credited with popularizing the donut in the United States (see related story). Salvation Army “donut girl” volunteers like Signa Leona Saunders from Brainerd, Minn. (pictured left), cooked  donuts in battle helmets and served them to troops on the front lines of WWI.

5. The Salvation Army led in the formation of the United Service Organizations (USO) during WWII, which serves members of the armed forces abroad.

6. The 1966 Beatles song “Strawberry Fields Forever” is John Lennon’s nostalgic reference to a Salvation Army orphanage called Strawberry Field in Woolton, England, a small town outside of Liverpool. Lennon is said to have played with childhood friends in the trees behind the orphanage when he was a boy. The facility closed in 2005, but thanks to a renewed vision, The Salvation Army in the United Kingdom looks to open the facility to the public for the first time as a visiting center and a hub that provides opportunities to change the lives of marginalized young people . You can become part of an incredible legacy by making a donation to bring Strawberry Field back to life.

7. There is a reference to The Salvation Army in over 140 films. Some of the more notable references include Captain America: Civil War, Seabiscuit, A Christmas Story, Titanic, and Batman Begins.

8. A surprising number of NFL athletes have a connection to The Salvation Army. Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris and Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin Jr. both participated in local Salvation Army youth sports teams, while Baltimore Ravens linebacker Jameel McClain sought housing in our shelters during his childhood.