National Doughnut Day

The Salvation Army celebrates Doughnut Day annually in June to honor the efforts of the Doughnut Lassies during World War I.

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The Doughnut Lassies

In the midst of WWI, Evangeline Booth sent 250 Salvation Army volunteers overseas to support the US soldiers fighting in France. There, they set up small huts located near the front lines to give soldiers clothes, supplies and 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 doughnuts in soldiers’ helmets. These tasty treats boosted morale and won the hearts of the soldiers.

Lassie holding donuts

Donut Lassie WWI

In addition to serving fresh-fried pastries, "Doughnut Lassies" provided spiritual aid and comfort. They were a link home to family and friends. Their work on the front lines was rekindled during World War II.

The Doughnut Lassies are often credited with popularizing the dougnut in the United States when the troops, "Doughboys," returned home from war.


"They went where they were needed, They did what they could, They gave what they had, and of such is the Kingdom of Heaven.”
- John Barton Payne

Lassie frying donuts

Doughnut Day Facts

  • The Salvation Army celebrated the first National Doughnut Day in 1938 in the city of Chicago as a way to honor Salvation Army “doughnut lassies” from World War I.
  • The Salvation Army started National Doughnut Day as a way to raise funds and bring awareness to the Army’s social service programs during the Great Depression.
  • The Doughnut Lassies also provided writing supplies, stamps, clothes-mending and home cooked food for soldiers.
  • Around 10 billion doughnut are made in the US each year.

The doughnut now serves as a symbol of all the social services The Salvation Army provides to those in need. The Salvation Army still serves doughnuts, in addition to warm meals and hydration, to those in need during times of disaster.

National Doughnut Day occurs on the first Friday of June.