Remembering ‘the donut girls’

HIBBING — For the staff at The Salvation Army, a donut is more than a sweet treat or a breakfast sidekick. It’s a reminder of the comforts of home that the charitable organization's “Donut Girls” provided to U.S. soldiers during World War I.

This Friday marks the 81st annual celebration of National Donut Day in which Hibbing staff will be serving up free donuts from 1 to 5 p.m. at their 107 W Howard Street location.

“The Hibbing Salvation Army is proud to serve people in need in our community,” said Captain Mitch Brecto of the Hibbing Salvation Army in a recent press release Tuesday. “We encourage everybody to stop by and help us celebrate National Donut Day.”

The Salvation Army started National Donut Day in 1938 to raise funds for people in need during the Great Depression. Today it also serves to commemorate the women fondly nicknamed the “Donut Girls,” who braved bombs and bullets to serve thousands of donuts to U.S. troops battling the frontlines of World War I.

The female Salvation Army volunteers made the fried treats using limited supplies available at the time, such as repurposing wine bottles as rolling pins and tin cans as cutters. Not only that, their very presence was said to cure the homesickness of “war-torn American troops” in France, as they provided the soldiers with a sense of hope and comfort. These women not only fed them but also mended their clothes, helped them write letters home and prayed with them.

The late Helen Purviance, one of the first “Donut Girls,” is quoted in the press release as saying, “There was also a prayer in my heart that somehow this home touch would do more for those who ate the donuts than satisfy a physical hunger.”

Her tradition continued as soldiers in World War II and the Vietnam War also benefited from the “donut girls.”

National Donut Day is a time to remember the actions of these women and to reflect on the needs the staff at The Salvation Army continues to meet. From their food shelf to their various social service programs— Christmas assistance, rental and utility assistance, feeding program and coats for kids — the folks at The Salvation Army assist thousands of locals each year, and Friday they’ll roll out a little something extra.

Stop over and get a free donut while they last.

To volunteer, donate or learn more about the Hibbing Salvation Army, visit HibbingSA.org.

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