'Doughnut Dollies' brought home comforts to front lines | The Enterprise
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'Doughnut Dollies' brought home comforts to front lines

Posted on January 11, 2021


DeeAnn Rivera

DeeAnn Rivera

I hit a writer’s block this week. My routine is off — my husband took a new job out of town. 

My New Year’s resolution is already broken. Exercising three times a week is still a dream. My garden is bleak — the weather is cold and gray, and the news at our Capitol is depressing! So, I decided to search Mr. Google and see what I didn’t know about victory gardens.

Mr. Google did not give me more victory gardening information. What was brought to my attention was more like the sister of victory gardens, they were known as the Doughnut Dollies. Doughnuts are much better than the weather right now!

Doughnut Dollies were an American Red Cross volunteer project from World War II through the Korean War and Vietnam Conflict. “Doughnut Dollies” wasn’t an official title for this position, but one that the soldiers affectionately dubbed the ladies that brought free doughnuts — and cigarettes, coffee and gum, but most importantly, they brought humanity right to the front lines of the wars and conflict. They represented what the soldiers were fighting for — their girlfriends, wives, sisters, cousins and the girl next door.

The selection to be a volunteer was tough to get. The requirements to apply to this non-paid position was to be a female college graduate, pass a physical exam, have stellar reference letters and have an outstanding personality as determined from a personal interview. It was easier to get into the military than to volunteer as a civilian on the front lines!

After selection, the young volunteers then went through the American Red Cross training program in Washington. After receiving multiple immunizations and their uniform, they had to complete several weeks of training (this sounds similar to being in the military). Training included the proper way to wear a uniform — 10 pages of specific instructions. The young ladies also received basic training on the American Red Cross’ history and its policies and procedures before being stationed overseas where the fighting was taking place.

A letter exchange between a former Red Cross volunteer mother and her daughter, who was a current Doughnut Dollie volunteer in Korea, found on the website Coffee or Die accurately sums up the Doughnut Dollies’ true mission. 

Helen Meyner, 22, shared in a letter to her mom what her days as a volunteer involved. Some duties sounded rather mundane, like helping in the hospital by arranging card games, ping-pong tournaments, birthday parties and talent shows. Typical duties in the 1950s for the Red Cross at that time. Helen also shared that soldiers were young and scared that they would soon be returning to the horrors of war if they were physically able. 

Her mother, Eleanor “Bumpy” Stevenson, the former Doughnut Dollie during WWII, replied with sage advice that continues to hold true even now:

“There is no other work as fascinating and as rewarding and as deeply wonderful. For the rest of your life, you will have real values. You know now what is important. Nothing matters except human relationships and kindness and service. I am so happy that you have had this experience. You can never forget it and never be trite, petty, little or mean. If only everyone in the world could have a similar experience, we would have peace tomorrow and forever.”

These young, educated women saw a problem and didn’t complain, carry a weapon or have a political agenda, they just rolled up their sleeves and became a shining light in the darkness. They served the service members who were fighting for America.

They used doughnuts to boost morale. They brought kindness and hope in the face of brutality and violence. They didn’t bind physical wounds, but rather the emotional wounds that are harder to see. They were the gals from home who came and cared.

Perhaps we need Doughnut Dollies and victory gardens to help heal America now.

Happy planting!

DeeAnn Rivera is a Spring Hope resident who blogs at VictoryGardenGal.com. Email her at VictoryGardenGal@gmail.com.

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