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Given that Americans consume over 100 million donuts each year, they don’t really need an excuse to devour the gooey fried treat. However, if you are among the minority that does, you are in luck, because Friday, June 2, is National Donut Day. Celebrated annually on the first Friday of the month, the holiday’s origin can be traced back to Salvation Army workers who volunteered to help injured US troops during World War I (WWI).
When the Donut Girls, as they were later called, arrived in France in 1917, they found that the soldiers were miserable and homesick. To lift their spirits, two volunteers, Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance, used the limited ingredients at their disposal – flour, sugar, and oil – to make donuts. It was no easy task given that they did not have rolling pins or donut cutters. But the effort was well worth it.
As the tempting aroma of the fresh donuts wafted through the camps, soldiers began lining outside the service hut, patiently waiting for hours in the cold and wet conditions to obtain the special treat that reminded them of home. While the Donut Girls only managed to make 150 donuts the first day, they became increasingly efficient and were soon distributing as many as 9,000 donuts a day. Sheldon even managed to convince a French blacksmith to design a makeshift donut cutter using the top of a condensed milk can to fulfill the request of a soldier seeking “a donut with a hole in it.” The Salvation Army continued the tradition of feeding soldiers with fresh donuts during World War II and the Vietnam War, and the treat became synonymous with the non-profit organization.
In 1938, during the Great Depression, the Chicago chapter of the Salvation Army revived the donut-making tradition to provide much-needed cheer and raise funds for people in need. The event was so successful that National Donut Day became an American tradition. Today, many Salvation Army chapters around the country celebrate the occasion by feeding those in need and handing out free donuts made using the original WWI recipe.
Many donut manufacturers also use the day to thank their patrons. Krispy Kreme and LaMar's Donuts give a free donut to customers that visit any of their locations, while Dunkin Donuts does the same with the purchase of a beverage. Many neighborhood stores also participate in this fun tradition, so be sure to check if the one closest to you, is giving out free treats!
Happy National Donut Day!
Resources: salvationarmy.org, wikipedia.org