National Donut Day!


The Salvation Army in Chicago celebrated the first National Donut Day in 1938 to help the needy during the Great Depression and to commemorate the work of the “donut lassies” who served donuts to soldiers during World War I.

In 1917, The Salvation Army began a mission to provide spiritual and emotional support for U.S. soldiers fighting in France during World War I. 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.

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

National Donut Day occurs on the first Friday of June.

Since 2010, Entenmann’s has partnered with The Salvation Army for Donut Day. This year, for every “like” on the Entenmann’s Facebook page from April 21st to June 30th, Entenmann’s will donate $1 (up to $30,000) to The Salvation Army. Fans can also enter to win “Free Donuts for a Year” on the Entenmann’s Facebook page. Many other donut shops will participate in the holiday and national chains such as Krispy Kreme and Dunkin’ Donuts often offer free donuts on the day.

Fact Sheet

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.

Approximately 250 Salvation Army volunteers provided assistance to American soldiers in France starting in 1917 during WWI.

  • Known as lassies, female Salvation Army volunteers provided writing supplies, stamps, clothes-mending and home cooked food for soldiers.
  • Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance came up with the idea of cooking doughnuts in helmets with oil to quickly cook food for American soldiers.
  • The doughnuts became an instant hit that was brought back to America by returning “doughboys.”

The Salvation Army continues to provide doughnuts, as well as other services to clients who visit Salvation Army programs daily.

  • Last year, nearly 30 million Americans received assistance from the Army's 3,600 officers, 63,000 employees, and 3.4 million volunteers.
  • Overall, the Army served nearly 70 million meals to people in need.
  • The Salvation Army has nearly 7,800 centers of operation in almost every ZIP code in the country.
  • The Salvation Army provides coffee and doughnuts, as well as warm meals and hydration to survivors and emergency relief workers during a disaster, such as a hurricane or earthquake.