Friday, June 5: A day to give the doughnut its due
By: Dan Childs
The humble doughnut and The Salvation Army have long been linked by the connecting thread of heroes’ travails. The relationship started in the squalor of the trenches in France during World War I and that link remains intact today in the throes of the global pandemic.
National Donut Day will be observed June 5, 2020. The annual observance itself is one of some long standing, dating back to 1938, when The Salvation Army in Chicago declared Donut Day to honor the Doughnut Lassies to increase awareness and funding for the Army’s social service programs during the Great Depression. The day is observed each year on the first Friday in June.
The story of The Salvation Army and the doughnut began in 1917 when some 250 Salvation Army volunteers traveled overseas to help bring comfort to American soldiers fighting on the front lines in France (the U.S. soldiers were commonly known as doughboys, but the reference was one that had been applied to American infantrymen since at least as far back as the mid-19th century and probably had nothing to do with the doughnut).
The volunteers set up shop in small huts in abandoned buildings near the front lines to hand out clothing, personal supplies and baked goods to the soldiers, far from home and enduring hardships in the muddy trenches and rifle pits. Cooking ingredients and facilities were in short supply. Two of the volunteers, Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance, improvised and began using their meager ingredients to fry doughnuts in the soldiers’ steel helmets. Thus, Ensign Sheldon and Adjutant Purviance became the original Doughnut Lassies, a treasured part of Salvation Army history and lore.
Doughnuts are still a part of many Salvation Army gatherings. They’re often available at Salvation Army canteens serving during disasters. But they still have that link with our heroes, from the doughboys of World War I, to police, firefighters and other emergency workers serving on the front lines of catastrophic events.
A new hero is being celebrated today amid the COVID-19 pandemic – the healthcare workers who willingly place themselves at risk every day. In Jacksonville, The Salvation Army of Northeast Florida will deliver doughnuts to over 30 hospital emergency rooms, as well as to fire departments, police stations, the Jacksonville Transit Authority and news outlets. Publix Super Markets will provide the doughnuts for these workers who are serving their neighbors in these troubling times.