World War I was a time of intense fighting for American soldiers in France.
They battled for their lives in the trenches and endured horrible living conditions.
But their lives were made just a little bit better by 250 women known as Hallelujah Lassies. The Lassies were civilians with the Salvation Army who put themselves in harm’s way on the front lines with servicemen.
To honor the Hallelujah Lassies, the local Krispy Kreme, in partnership with the local Salvation Army, will observe National Donut Day on Friday as it has for more than 15 years.
The Salvation Army created the first National Donut Day event in 1938 in Chicago.
Capt. Sherrie Stokes, corps officer with the Salvation Army, said the Hallelujah Lassies were on the front lines with the soldiers, with bullets flying past them the same as the soldiers.
“These ladies offered emotional and spiritual care, as well as physical care to the soldiers who were fighting,” she said. “A lot of times, the soldiers wouldn’t be able to stop fighting to be able to eat for more than 12 hours. The ladies would be down in the trenches and would dig out a little fire pit area to brew coffee and make doughnuts.
“The coffee tasted horrible, if you talk to veterans from that era. But it’s all they had to drink, and they had to make do with what they had in the trenches.”
The Lassies got creative with making doughnuts, using the soldiers’ metal hats, which they filled with grease or oil, and put a glass bottle in the middle, pouring the doughnut batter around the bottle to form a doughnut.
“The doughnuts didn’t taste like what you get at a doughnut shop today,” Stokes said. “They were more of a dry cake doughnut. If you go to Krispy Kreme and ask for a regular doughnut with no glaze and no flavors added, that gives you an idea of what those doughnuts tasted like.”
Making doughnuts and coffee was not all the Hallelujah Lassies did for the soldiers.
“They would also write letters home for the soldiers, word for word,” Stokes said. “That tended to get very emotional. The soldiers were fighting for their country and were far away from their family. As bullets were flying past them, these ladies wrote down exactly what these soldiers wanted to tell their families.
“It’s such a rich history, and the Lassies provided so much care to the soldiers. Oftentimes, the men’s feet would be raw from standing in water and all that, and the Lassies would rub down the men’s feet, pat them dry and massage them trying to give them a little bit of relief from what was going on. It is so amazing.”
And when the Lassies were not making doughnuts and coffee, writing letters and providing other care to the soldiers, they were praying for the soldiers.
“So many soldiers came to know Jesus as they were fighting in war because of the Hallelujah Lassies,” Stokes said. “They were taking lives with weapons, but at the same time giving their life over to the Lord. That’s pretty powerful.”
National Donut Day begins at midnight tonight and runs through midnight Friday.
“We will be giving one free doughnut of your choice to anyone who walks through the door,” said Latesha Bryant-Jones, Krispy Kreme’s local relationship marketing manager. “No purchase is necessary.”
Bryant-Jones said in past years, cars have been lined up from Krispy Kreme’s parking lot down Ash Street and around Berkeley Boulevard to McDonald’s. And people have been lined up out the door.
“But it’s wonderful because you step through the door and there’s that smell of Krispy Kreme doughnuts,” she said. “It just brings a smile to everybody’s face, and that’s the best part of it, having a product that warms you on the inside and just brings you joy.”
Krispy Kreme will prepare for National Donut Day by making sure extra staff is on duty and making sure that it doesn’t run out of doughnuts.
During National Donut Day, the Salvation Army will be set up in a tent outside Krispy Kreme to take donations, but more importantly, to tell everyone about the rich history of the Salvation Army and the history behind National Donut Day.
Stokes said they will remind people that donations given in Wayne County stay in Wayne County and none of it goes for overhead.
“That’s pretty powerful,” she said. “It takes a community to take care of the community. Anybody can do good, it doesn’t take a certain breed of people or a certain church or a certain community. And a lot of times, the people who have been in need are the people who are more willing to help because they know exactly what that feels like.”
In advance of National Donut Day, Krispy Kreme has a Salvation Army kettle at the store for donations. Anyone making a donation by Saturday will be able to write their name on a paper kettle to be put up inside the business.
“We keep partnering with the Salvation Army for National Donut Day because with the Salvation Army, we know the community outreach they do,” Bryant-Jones said. “And we love the fact that we’re able to partner with them to give back. We want to continue the partnership.
“So, come donate to the Salvation Army on National Donut Day and get a sweet treat.”