How Donuts Became a Beacon of Hope During the Great Depression

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The Sweet Story Behind National Donut Day

Ah, National Donut Day! A day that fills hearts with sugary joy and mouths with melt-in-your-mouth delight. But for the Salvation Army, it’s about more than just a free treat. It’s a day steeped in history, a reminder of selflessness, and a symbol of hope in the face of hardship.

Take Juan Pinuelas, a baseball player from Elkhart County, beaming over a complimentary donut. His excitement is pure, childlike glee at the simple pleasure of a sweet treat. Yet, for Ron Sherck, the Elkhart Salvation Army’s Director of Development, the day carries a deeper meaning.


“It’s our way of celebrating our community,” Sherck says, his voice filled with warmth. “A thank you for letting us serve you.”

The story behind National Donut Day goes back to the trenches of World War I. Salvation Army volunteers, both men and women, arrived in France to find weary soldiers facing dwindling rations. So, they did what any resourceful soul would do – they got creative.

From Helmets to Hope

“They started making donuts,” Sherck explains, a hint of amusement in his voice. “Imagine that! No fancy equipment, just people with a will to help.”

Legend has it that they even used soldiers’ metal helmets, cleaned and turned upside down, as makeshift frying pans. Necessity truly is the mother of invention (and delicious donuts!).


The fame of these battlefield treats spread, and the donut became a staple for the Salvation Army even after the war. But it wasn’t until 1938, during the Great Depression’s bleakest hour, that National Donut Day was officially born. A time when hope was a precious commodity.

Sherck believes that donuts, even today, hold a special power in our communities. “There’s so much negativity around us,” he says, his voice turning serious. “But a donut? It brings a smile, a little moment of joy. And that, my friend, is hope.”

In a world often painted in shades of grey, National Donut Day is a vibrant splash of color. It’s a reminder that hope can come in the simplest forms, a sugary bite that lifts the spirits and brings people together. So, this National Donut Day, take a bite, savor the sweetness, and remember the story behind it. It’s a story of resilience, of community, and most importantly, of hope – a hope that’s more powerful than any challenge we face.

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