You may have heard that today is International Doughnut Day, but did you know that it was started by The Salvation Army? What began as National Doughnut Day in the USA, started in 1938 as a fundraiser for The Chicago Salvation Army. Their goal was to help those in need during the Great Depression, and to honour The Salvation Army ‘Lassies’ of World War I, who served doughnuts to soldiers.
In 1917, about 250 Salvation Army volunteers went to France to support the US enlisted men fighting in the war. Because of the difficulties of providing freshly baked goods to the front line, two Salvation Army volunteers, Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance, came up with the idea of cooking doughnuts to increase morale and to remind the soldiers of home. Helen was famously quoted as saying, “I was literally on my knees when those first doughnuts were fried. There was also a prayer in my heart that somehow this would do more for those who ate the doughnuts than satisfying a physical hunger.”
The doughnuts were an instant hit and Margaret wrote of one busy day: "Today I made 22 pies, 300 doughnuts, 700 cups of coffee." Later they were able to turn out 8,000 doughnuts a day, and soon the women who did this work became known by the servicemen as ‘Doughnut Girls’.
Rosy Keane of Women’s Ministries shares how she recently used the story of the Doughnut Girls to encourage and challenge people:
“At one of The Salvation Army’s foremost social justice conferences, Just Action, we were looking at ways to demonstrate this story of justice and history of grace where women have banded together to creatively minister in their community.
We chose to celebrate with ‘Just Doughnuts’ – offering beaut donuts for morning tea, each one with a brief history of the Doughnut Girls attached. This is the story that cemented the sugary snack in the books of history, the hands of the women and the hearts of soldiers, in the name of Jesus and through The Salvation Army.”
What an awesome example of sacrificial love they were! Whether you enjoy a doughnut today or not, take a minute to reflect on the Doughnut Girls and their incredible service and generosity. May we endeavour to be as fearless and creative in expressing God’s love to our world today.