Incredible war stories underscore importance of National Donut Day

May 22, 2023

National Donut Day is Friday, June 2, when people across the country will celebrate by scarfing down Long Johns, apple fritters, and other tasty pastries. 

But National Donut Day represents something more important than just eating donuts. The Salvation Army started this event in 1938 to commemorate the work of “Donut Girls” – female Salvation Army volunteers who served American soldiers battling on the frontlines of war. 

The Donut Girls touched the lives of thousands of soldiers, including a Minnesota man named Louis Maravelas (pictured with his wife, Stella). The U.S. Marine Corps veteran never forgot about the Donut Girls and what they did for him and his battalion on Christmas Day during World War II.  

That morning, Louis and the battalion were on the beach of a small island near Australia, preparing to take the island from Japanese troops.

“The plan was to proceed up the beach, push back the first line of defense, return to shore, and circle the edge of the island to move behind the Japanese artillery,” Louis recalled, in a story written by his granddaughter, Lisa Harold, based on recorded family history. 

Louis fought hard during the first wave of battle and survived. When he returned to the beach, in the midst of chaos and confusion, he heard a female voice.

Hey, Yank! Do you want a cup of coffee?

It was a Salvation Army Donut Girl. She and another had set up a booth on the beach to hand out coffee and donuts to the soldiers. 

The Donut Girls first began volunteering in World War 1, making and serving thousands of donuts a day for U.S. troops. They also prayed with the soldiers, helped them write letters, mended their clothes, and more. The women were later credited with popularizing the donut in the United States after the troops (nicknamed “doughboys”) returned home from war. 

Louis treasured that moment on the beach for his entire life. He died in 2007.   

“In this small symbolic gesture, the (Donut Girls) were thanking us, the Marines, for our willingness to protect Australia on Christmas morning,” recalled Louis, who went on to support The Salvation Army for more than a half-century. 

His granddaughter, Lisa, never forgot the story, either. 

“Throughout the rest of his life, my grandfather told this story to his children and grandchildren,” Lisa said. “He always remembered these special ladies from The Salvation Army. He also supported this organization financially, and he encouraged his family to do so as well.”

More war stories

Many other veterans are quick to share their stories about how The Salvation Army helped them during times of war or disaster. 

Earlier this year, at a local restaurant, a Vietnam veteran stopped one of our social workers, Heidi, when he noticed she was wearing a Salvation Army t-shirt. 

“He told me a story of how The Salvation Army helped him when he was fighting in Vietnam,” Heidi explained. “He had tears in his eyes as he spoke of how The Salvation Army asked for nothing in return. It is a memory I won’t soon forget.”

Also this year, another Vietnam veteran told one of our donor relations reps, Wendy, about an incredible moment he witnessed while he was in Mississippi helping survivors of Hurricane Camille in August of 1969 – the second-most intense hurricane to ever strike the continental U.S.

“The area was destroyed and they had been without food, water and electricity for many days,” Wendy said. “The man remembered that the first plane that arrived to help was a small twin-engine plane with a Salvation Army sign in the window. They dropped off food, water, clothing, and blankets. This man shared that he has never forgotten the help The Salvation Army provided.”

Celebrate National Donut Day

Today, the donut serves as a symbol of the comfort that The Salvation Army provides to those in need. Last year in the U.S., with the help of nearly 1.3 million volunteers, we provided 171 million meals along with rent, utility and other financial assistance for nearly 4 million households. 

In addition, our disaster staff and volunteers provided emotional support, food, water – and many times, donuts – at more than 8,400 disaster sites around the country. 

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.”

The Salvation Army wishes everyone a happy National Donut Day on Friday, June 2. 

Please join The Salvation Army by giving a donation or signing up to volunteer. With your help, we can show families in need that there is Love Beyond their most difficult hardships. 

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