National Donut Day: A Sweet Celebration with a Noble Cause By Commissioner Kenneth Hodder

Jun 13, 2024

National Donut Day, celebrated on the first Friday of June each year, is a beloved occasion marked by indulgence in one of America’s favorite treats: the donut. However, behind the sugary treats and colorful sprinkles lies a rich history intertwined with faith,  hope, and national pride.

The origins of National Donut Day date back to World War I. During this tumultuous period, The Salvation Army played a crucial role in providing spiritual and physical aid and comfort to American soldiers stationed on the front lines in France. A group of dedicated Salvation Army officers, later known as "Donut Lassies,” devised an additional way to boost the morale of the troops – by frying up fresh donuts.

These women, braving the dangers of war zones, set up makeshift kitchens near the front lines. With limited resources, they fried the donuts and passed out the baked goods. The soldiers, far from home and enduring the horrors of war, found solace in the simple pleasure of a freshly made donut. The treat became a symbol of the warmth and care these volunteers provided, offering a brief respite from the harsh realities of battle.

The success of The Salvation Army’s Donut Lassies in uplifting the spirits of soldiers did not go unnoticed. Their efforts were widely appreciated, and the donut quickly became a cherished symbol of home and comfort. This legacy of compassion and culinary creativity led to the establishment of National Donut Day by The Salvation Army of Chicago in 1938. The day was created not only to honor the Donut Lassies but also to raise awareness and funds for the organization's social service programs during the Great Depression.

National Donut Day has since evolved into a nationwide celebration. Bakeries and donut shops across the country join in the festivities by offering free donuts and special promotions. While it is easy to get lost in the sugary delight of the day, it is important to remember the historical significance and the courageous, faith-filled, charitable origins of this celebration.

In recent years, National Donut Day has also become an opportunity for more philanthropic efforts. Many donut chains and local bakeries use the occasion to support various charitable causes. For instance, some establishments donate a portion of their profits to veterans' organizations or community programs, echoing the original spirit of giving that inspired the day.

Leading the way is The Salvation Army, which still serves on the “front lines” today in the fight against poverty, homelessness, food insecurity, addiction, and other issues impacting vulnerable individuals and families living in the U.S. and around the world. Many veterans are still fighting battles mentally, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. At least 20% of Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer from PTSD and/or depression, more than 20% of veterans with PTSD suffer from an addiction or dependence on drugs or alcohol, and veterans make up 8% of the homeless population in the U.S. For more than a century, The Salvation Army has served as a social safety net in the U.S., offering homeless shelters, rehabilitation services, community, food pantries, job training, and more to help thousands of veterans and millions of others. 

Today, National Donut Day serves as a reminder of the enduring power of simple acts of kindness. The story of the Donut Lassies exemplifies how a humble pastry can provide comfort and joy, even in the darkest of times. 

So, when you indulge in your favorite donut today, whether that’s a classic glazed or one creatively adorned with toppings, take a moment to reflect on its storied past. Remember the brave women who fried donuts and boosted faith and morale on the front lines of war, and consider how small acts of kindness can make a big difference. In celebrating National Donut Day, we are not just enjoying a tasty treat; we are partaking in a tradition of faith, compassion, service, generosity, and community spirit that has spanned more than a century.


Commissioner Kenneth G. Hodder serves as the National Commander for The Salvation Army in the United States. A sixth-generation Salvationist, Commissioner Hodder is a graduate of Harvard College. Commissioner Hodder leads The Salvation Army with his wife, Jolene K. Hodder.

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