Last year, the doughnut day was held at Timms Community Centre. This year, the Salvation Army team will be at Superstore on Willowbrook Drive. (Special to the Langley Advance)

TODAY: Doughnut giveaway in Langley part of tribute to veterans

A Salvation Army’s Gateway of Hope team is continuing a tradition started 101 years ago, in wartime.

It was 101 years ago that the Salvation Army doughnut lassies “courageously served” soldiers sweet treats on the front lines of France during the First World War.

Well today (Friday), the Salvation Army team in Langley is rekindling that historic tradition by giving away doughnuts as part of their ongoing efforts to recognize this community’s veterans.

Free Krispy Kreme doughnuts will be handed out to the public during the lunch hour Friday, June 1, at the Real Canadian Superstore on Willowbrook Drive.

“The Salvation Army will give a taste of the compassion, hope, and joy that our servicemen and women experienced,” said Julie Gilfillan, the fundraising coordinator for Gateway of Hope.

• A little taste of history

Many people today know nothing of the story of the doughnut girls, or as Gilfillan elaborated, the women who fried doughnuts and dodged bombs during what was dubbed the war to end all wars.

In 1917, Salvation Army officers and volunteers were sent to France to aid soldiers fighting on the front lines.

In their efforts to encourage and assist the troops they initially offered the same wholesome activities they’d provided at home: religious services, the playing of music, hot cocoa, and fudge.

Following 36 “dreadful days of steady rain” on the front, two young Salvation Army women decided that what the demoralized troops needed was something that reminded them of the sweetness of home.

They quickly got to work and gathered excess rations for dough and shell casings for makeshift rolling pins.

They filled a soldier’s helmet with lard and fried braided crullers. The doughnuts were simple in flavour made with only a handful of ingredients.

But, they instantly became a hit.

The gloriously fragrant smell of frying doughnuts drew the soldiers in, and word went out, “If you’re hungry and broke, you can get something to eat at The Salvation Army.”

“Before the war I felt that the Salvation Army was composed of a well-meaning lot of cranks. Now what help I can give them is theirs,” wrote Theodore Roosevelt Jr., son of the former U.S. president, after serving in France.

“These dear women often risked their own lives in the service of others and provided such a helpful service; a nice break from the atrocities of war. Their presence was very powerful,” Gilfillan recounted from Salvation Army records.

“We don’t want people to forget the sacrifices made by our veterans,” added Salvation Army Col. Jamie Braund. “And although this is a small gesture, it is another reminder that they have and still make a commitment to protect us every day.”

So, the local team will be joining in what has been proclaimed international doughnut day, recognizing the sacrifices and bravery of veterans by offering free doughnuts again.

“We will be at Superstore on Friday, from noon to 1 p.m., if you would like to come down and get your free doughnut,” Gilfillan said, extending an invitation.

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