Weird and wonderful calendar designations come and go, but National Donut Day is up there among our most noteworthy of countrywide celebrations and the Salvation Army of Santa Monica marked the occasion in style.

A large crowd gathered at the Fourth Street headquarters on Friday morning to commemorate not only its 130 year anniversary and the work accomplished by the Santa Monica division, but also to savor some of those sweet, dollops of unadulterated deliciousness. After which volunteers took countless boxes to the streets of Downtown to offer free sugar-coated, circular snacks to anyone that wanted one.

“This is very exciting because the Salvation Army is a very important partner with the city in addressing the needs of some of our most vulnerable citizens,” said Mayor Gleam Davis, who was just one of a number of Councilmembers in attendance. “What’s really great about it is they give so much of their time and energy to help people and get them through some difficult days in their lives and I’m just happy that the city is able to be here and be supportive.”

Many might not realize the history between those glazed, heavenly hoops of happiness and the Salvation Army and it’s a connection that goes back over a century. Donuts, in one form or another, have been around since Dutch settlers brought them to the US in the early 18th century, but they proved pivotal to morale in the muddy fields of northern France during the First World War.

In 1917, the Salvation Army began a mission to provide spiritual and emotional support for US soldiers fighting in France during WWI. About 250 volunteers traveled overseas and set up small huts located near the front lines where they could give soldiers clothes, supplies and baked goods. After discovering that serving baked goods would be difficult considering the conditions of the huts and limited rations, two volunteers — Ensign Margaret Sheldon and Adjutant Helen Purviance – began frying donuts in soldier’s helmets. Nicknamed “Donut Lassies,” the women who served donuts to troops are credited with popularizing the donut in the United States.

“Everybody’s welcome to get a doughnut. We’re also going to go hand out at all the fire stations and all the police stations to say thank you to those who work on the front lines alongside us,” Captain Katrina Fleming, Santa Monica Salvation Army, said. “We’re going to walk around the Promenade and some local areas in town as well and just celebrate with the public and give everyone free donuts too,” adding, “We just like to warm people’s spirits with a little baked goods.”

Advisory Board Chair Ross Pollack, Mayor Gleam Davis, Councilmember Phil Brock, Captain James Fleming, Captain Katrina Fleming
PHOTOGRAPH: Scott Snowden

Both Davis and Councilmember Phil Brock gave speeches highlighting the valuable work undertaken by the international charitable organization before the Mayor presented a proclamation.

“One of the things that touches me about the work that the Salvation Army does, is that they do it without judgment. They understand that none of us are perfect and they look beyond our imperfections and say, ‘We don’t care where you’ve been, who you are, what we care about is how we can help you,’” Davis said.

“Salvation Army volunteers are helping in the Ukraine right now. They’re helping throughout Europe. And they’re helping in almost every city in the United States. The Salvation Army lends a hand whenever a hand is needed. And in Santa Monica, in our city, the Salvation Army has made a difference,” Brock said.

Captain Katrina Fleming, Captain James Fleming, Mayor Gleam Davis, Councilmembers Phil Brock and Christine Parra
PHOTOGRAPH: Scott Snowden

“I’m so grateful for the Salvation Army and the work that they do to help our unhoused community, rehabilitate them, get them back on their feet and give them the chance,” Councilmember Christine Parra said. “They are such an amazing partner and anything that we can do to support them and to help to continue to lift up our community we should do.”

The event was made possible with the generous cooperation of Santa Monica-based Lionsgate Studios, who, through the tireless efforts of Ross Pollack, EVP and Chairperson of the Salvation Army Advisory Board, covered the cost of the near infinite amount of tasty treats made by DK Donuts.

“We live here and we work here, this is our home,” said Pollack. “[Lionsgate] CEO Jon Feltheimer and [Vice Chairman] Michael Burns are passionate about doing something to help the homeless situation in Santa Monica. Unfortunately more and more people are coming to Santa Monica and so the problem is growing. The support is growing and I don’t know that we’ll solve homelessness anytime soon, but we’ll do what we can to make sure that people on the street have enough to eat and a place to go to help with issues if they support.’

Scott fell in love with Santa Monica when he was much younger and now, after living and working in five different countries, he has returned. He's written for the likes of the FT, NBC, the BBC and CNN.