What do donuts, “Lassies” (no, not the famous dog),  social media contests and war have in common? They are all part of the 79th annual celebration of The Salvation Army National Donut Day on Friday, June 3rd.   To mark this occasion, Salvation Army Austin volunteers and staff will be giving away donuts to police and fire officers at locations in Austin and Williamson County and at the Austin VA Outpatient Clinic. Entenmann’s Bakery is providing the donuts through a partnership with The Salvation Army.

Because many veterans have a happy memory of receiving donuts or other care from The Salvation Army on the front lines, and many of these stories have been passed on, we invite you to share a related Donut Day story to enter our Donut Day Mug contest.

As part of the 2016 National Donut Day festivities, we will be giving away three commemorative Donut Day mugs with the original Salvation Army WWI doughnut recipe on the side.  To win your mug, join us during our celebration this year by telling your Donut Day story or a family member’s story on social media, and you will be entered into a drawing for a Donut Day mug.  To be eligible, include #nationaldonutday and tag SalvationArmyAustin on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.  Plus, be sure to make your post public so we can enter you in our drawing.  Deadline to enter is Sunday June 12, 2016.  Three randomly drawn winners will be selected on Tuesday, June 16, 2016 and will be announced on our social media sites.

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And for even more fun, Entenmann’s Bakery gives you a chance to  “Win Free Donuts for a Year”  with a sweepstakes on their Facebook page.  They will be awarding 10 grand prizes of one year of free Entenmann’s donuts and awarding 100 lucky fans with Party Pack prizes.  Visit Entenmann’s on their Facebook page to enter.  Be sure to share their page and encourage friends and family to enter as Entenmann’s Bakery will donate $1 to The Salvation Army for each “Win Free Donuts for a Year” sweepstakes entry received.

National Donut Day, held annually on the first Friday of June, was established by The Salvation Army in 1938 in Chicago to honor the “Donut Lassies”, who served these treats, along with providing writing supplies, clothes-mending and home-cooked meals to soldiers during World War I and to help raise needed funds during the great depression.

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When America entered the hostilities of World War I in April 1917, Evangeline Booth, who was The Salvation Army USA National Commander, placed the entire Salvation Army in the USA on war-service basis.  Hostels and service centers were established adjacent to military camps and were dispatched wherever the American troops were stationed.  These women earned the nicknames “Doughnut Lassies” or “Doughnut Girls” as they served countless treats to grateful soldiers, moving through the trenches to bring the men donuts and coffee.

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With limited resources at the start, the donuts were fried, only seven at a time and in soldiers’ helmets.  Although the young women worked late into the night, they only served 150 donuts the first day.  The next day, that number was doubled, and when fully equipped for the job, they fried from 2,500 to 9,000 donuts daily at each tent set up along the front line.  Because at the start they didn’t have a donut cutter, they twisted strips of dough to fry, but the demand for donuts with a hole increased by the soldiers and an elderly French blacksmith improvised a donut cutter by fastening the top of a condensed milk can with a camphor-ice tube to a wooden block.  Later, all sorts of other inventions were employed, such as the lid from a baking powder can or a lamp chimney to cut the donuts, with the top of a coffee percolator to make the hole.

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The donuts became synonymous with The Salvation Army, as well as the American Expeditionary Force soldiers who were returning home with the nickname, “Doughboys”.  More than just filling an empty stomach, these donuts and the joyful presence of the women who worked so hard to make them provided the soldiers with the boost their spirits needed during an extraordinarily difficult time.  This significantly established the donut as a long-standing symbol of the services The Salvation Army provides.

Today, The Salvation Army Austin continues to provide meals, including donuts, as well as numerous other programs and services including our current Camp campaign,  emergency shelters and service centers (Downtown Shelter and Social Service Center, the Austin Shelter for Women and Children, and the Williamson County Service Center), along with an Adult Rehabilitation Center, emergency disaster services and Christmas assistance.

Connect with us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and enter our Donut Day contests today.