Heroes: Doughnut Girls

by in Action, Features, Sliding Gallery

HEROES: Doughnut Girls
years fighting: 1889-1984 (Helen)
hero id: Doughnut Girls
mission: be love, compassion & mercy in the midst of literal war
strength: Courage, Hospitality, Compassion

Picture this… it’s Spring 1917 and America has just entered World War I fighting. Mud, bullets, explosions, blood, death and fear were all round. Into that chaos and on the soil of France, who showed up? Non other than The Salvation Army, that’s who. Evangeline Booth (US National Commander) was moved to help in whatever way possible and sent over a handful of courageous officers into the thick of the fray.

In the Fall of 1917, something needed to be done. The chaos of the situation along with 36 days of straight rain was taking it’s emotional toll on the soldiers and depression crept into camp. How did these officers respond? They decided the boys needed some lovin’ in the form of some good ol’ home cookin’ to lift their spirits. Options were limited because the only things they could purchase were flour, sugar, lard, baking powder, cinnamon, and canned milk.

Helen Purviance and Margaret Sheldon decided doughnuts were the best option and between the two of them, they patted out the dough, formed the doughnut and fired-up the the pot-bellied stove to churn out some ‘lovin’ fresh from the oven’.
No ‘Hot Now’ sign was needed to let people know the doughnuts were hot off the stove. Word spread fast and the boys lined up for the tasty treats from the ladies. They could only fry seven at a time in the frying pan so although the girls worked late into the night, they could serve only 150 doughnuts the first day. Get this though. As they developed their system and got help, they fried from 2,500 to 9,000 doughnuts daily, as did other ladies along the frontline trenches! All this, loooooooooong before Tim Hortons served their first doughnut in 1964!

Their situation required creativity and ingenuity. They would use an ordinary wine bottle as a rolling pin and initially, since they had no doughnut cutter, they used a knife to cut the dough into strips and then twisted them into crullers. Ensign Purviance then had an elderly French blacksmith improvise a doughnut cutter by fastening the top of a condensed milk can and 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 doughnut, with the top of a coffee percolator to make the hole. They even used bullet casings (a smaller one inside the other) as a doughnut cutter! Bullet casings…. wow! Imagine, an instrument of death being redeemed and used to show love and hope!

It’s easy to serve coffee and doughnuts in the trenches of modern day life to the uber cool 20 something guys with the graphic tee, black framed glasses and arm tat AND the Ford driving soccer moms that occupy the drive-thru’s and tables of Tim Hortons, Krispy Kreme or other [insert cool coffee shop/doughnut place name here]. No risk is involved other than you might make a mistake on their order or give them the wrong change back.

These girls were in real war trenches! People were being shot, wounded, killed, blown up around them! They saw death all around them. In the midst of this chaos they embodied the love and compassion of Jesus. They cared about the lives of the people they were serving. They got involved in the chaos and immediate story of their lives. They tended to the whole person – body, mind & spirit. Their doughnut shop offered a rest from the chaos. A reprieve… sanctuary if you will. The compassion went beyond the doughnuts and food for the soul. During major fighting engagements, they often worked in field hospitals and took part in the burials of soldiers each afternoon by singing, praying and leaving wild flowers at the graves.

I don’t know what we boys would do if it was not for the SA… those women have courage, to come right out into the trenches… they are so kind and good. When I come home, I shall exchange the US uniform for the SA uniform. I know, ma, you will not object. ~ unknown soldier

More details: video or article one & two

R-U a part of The Salvation Army? If so… this stuff is in your d.n.a, it’s part of your spiritual family tree! Tap into it. Let it speak and breathe life into you. Wake up from your trance. Dust yourself off.

Do yourself a favour. Sit down for a minute. Turn off your cell phone and ipod and reflect for a couple minutes of ‘you’ time to do some soul searching. Answering these questions below will help give you a sense of purpose for your life.

  • What areas of chaos in the lives of those around you can you show the love and compassion of Jesus
  • In what ways can you creatively do that?
  • What heroic things are you currently a part of? If you’re not, why not (lazy, $, time…)?
  • What kind of hero will you be?
  • What heroic things/social injustices will you BECOME a part of fighting?
  • How can you start taking action on that RIGHT NOW (this week)?
  • What will you be remembered for when you’re dead and gone?

See previous Heroes Episodes:
Frederick | Joe

Fight against injustice // Fight hard // Fight with love

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