National Donut Day is celebrated annually on the first Friday of June (Credit:

If you are looking for an excuse to indulge in a donut or two, here is a perfect one. Friday, June 5, 2020, is National Donut Day, which means it is your civic duty to devour one — or even a dozen — of the fried treats. Observed annually on the first Friday of June, the yummy holiday was not established by donut manufacturers to boost sales but by Salvation Army volunteers to raise funds for the poor.

The Salvation Army's association with donuts began in 1917 when four women volunteers were dispatched to France to tend to injured World War I soldiers. To lift the spirits of the homesick and miserable troops, Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance decided to use the limited ingredients at their disposal — flour, sugar, lard, baking powder, cinnamon, and canned milk — to make donuts.

Preparing the treats was no easy task. With no rolling pins, donut cutters, or frying pans to be found, the volunteers patted the dough by hand and cooked them, seven at a time, in a soldier's helmet. Despite working late into the night, the women managed to make only one hundred and fifty donuts the first night and three hundred the next. However, the effort was well worth it.

Salvation Army volunteers made donuts to cheer the homesick troops during World War I (Credit: The Salvation Army Chattanooga / Public domain)

The tempting aroma of fresh donuts brought much-needed cheer to the soldiers, who would patiently wait for hours in cold and damp weather to get their treat. Once fully equipped, the "Donut Lassies," as they were later called, dished out as many as 9,000 donuts a day! The simple dessert became a symbol of the Salvation Army's efforts to ease the hardships of American troops. It was also used to comfort frontline soldiers during World War II (1939-1945) and the Vietnam War (1955-1975).

In 1938, the Chicago chapter of the Salvation Army came up with the brilliant idea to sell donuts, made using the original WWI recipe, to the general public to raise much-needed funds for the poor during the Great Depression. It was so popular that they made it an annual event, and National Donut Day was born. Over the years, many donut retailers have joined in the celebrations by handing out free or discounted treats.

Among them is Krispy Kreme, which has traditionally offered a free donut to all customers on National Donut Day. However, this year, the company is taking the celebrations up a notch with a "National Donut Week." From June 1 to June 5, 2020, customers at any Krispy Kreme location will receive a free donut of their choice, with no purchase required.

Krispy Kreme is celebrating its first National Donut Week in 2020 (Credit: Krispy Kreme)

In honor of their selfless service during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare, childcare, education, and first-responder professionals will receive two free donuts from LaMar's Donuts. All other members of the public will receive one free donut of their choice. The company is also asking the public to nominate outstanding public service professionals for its inaugural Essential Service Awards. Winners will receive — you guessed it — a year's worth of free donuts!

Dunkin' Donuts, meanwhile, will continue its regular National Donut Day tradition of giving out a free classic donut with the purchase of a beverage. Many neighborhood donut stores will also participate in the celebrations with specials and freebies, so be sure to visit the one closest to you.

Though it is the most popular, National Donut Day is not the only holiday dedicated to the dessert. Donut fans will celebrate National Jelly-Filled Donut Day on June 8, National Cream-Filled Donut Day on September 14, and National Donut Appreciation Day on November 5! Given all these excuses to eat the yummy treat, it should come as no surprise that Americans consume 10 billion donuts — or about 31 donuts per person — annually!

Happy National Donut Day!