National Donut Day history: ‘Donut Girls’ braved bullets and bombs

May 4, 2021

National Donut Day is coming on Friday, June 4, when people across the country will feast on cullers, Long Johns, apple fritters, and other yummy pastries.   

But National Donut Day isn’t just about scarfing down donuts. It’s also about honoring people who serve our country.  

Case in point: The Salvation Army started National Donut Day in 1938 to commemorate the work of “Donut Girls” – female Salvation Army volunteers who served American soldiers battling on the frontlines of World War I. 

The Donut Girls made and served thousands of donuts a day for U.S. troops, often using empty wine bottles as rolling pins, and tin cans as cutters. In addition to frying donuts, the women prayed with the soldiers, helped them write letters, mended their clothes, and more. 

The Donut Girls quickly became a symbol of hope and comfort for their efforts to ease the hardship of war-torn American troops fighting in France. These women are often credited with popularizing the donut in the United States when the troops (nicknamed “doughboys”) returned home from war. 

Helen Purviance, one of the first Donut Girls, said it best: “There was also a prayer in my heart that somehow this home touch would do more for those who ate the donuts than satisfy a physical hunger.”

Today, the donut serves as a symbol of the comfort that The Salvation Army provides to those in need. The Salvation Army continues to serve donuts – in addition to hot meals and hydration – in times of disaster and other hardships.

Please join The Salvation Army in serving those affected by the COVID-19 crisis by giving a donation or signing up to volunteer. Your help will provide emergency assistance and hope for people and families in desperate need.


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