Famous Army doughnut returns

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by Aimee Sheridan – 

“When God invented the doughnut,” says Seattle advisory board chair Lee Stiles, “he gave it to The Salvation Army.”

The origin of the doughnut may not at first seem very significant, but to soldiers in WWI and WWII, the Salvation Army doughnut was a symbol of something very significant—home and hope.

The recipe came together on the front lines of war in the early 1900s when a Salvation Army Lassie took the meager ingredients she had on hand, mixed them together in a refuse pail and fried them on an 18” stove in a soldier’s helmet. Those warm doughnuts and a kind word from the Lassie are still fondly remembered by veterans from both world wars.

Lee, a third generation baker without a bakery (his family had sold it years before) was struck by the lore and legend of the Lassies and their doughnuts as he helped The Salvation Army make calls to thank donors for their support—the story of the doughnut was one he heard over and over again.

One day, as Lee attended a meeting at Northwest Divisional Headquarters, he stumbled upon a vintage poster of a Salvation Army Lassie carrying doughnuts. The words on the poster read: The Salvation Army Lassie, Keep her on the Job!

Lee was instantly struck by the powerful imagery in the poster and a sudden yearning to sell doughnuts. “The brand equity and the feeling of goodwill that the Salvation Army evokes is unmatched by anyone else.” says Lee, adding, “The Salvation Army had the doughnut, and then promptly forgot it.”

Armed with his baking background and a natural marketing ability, Lee approached the Army about proceeding with the idea of creating a cause-marketing product that would benefit the Army financially, and more importantly, raise awareness of The Salvation Army to the public—The Salvation Army Famous Doughnut, to be sold in grocery stores.

After the green light from the Army, Lee’s first stop was with Darrell Webb, President of Fred Meyer stores. Darrell had been a fellow Salvation Army King County Advisory Board member in Seattle before moving to Portland, Oregon. Darrell immediately caught the vision for the product—and his enthusiasm gave Lee the motivation to move forward with his inquiries.

Lee approached a long-time associate at Archer Daniels Midland (ADM) Milling, Mark Steinberger, who liked the idea and took it to his research and development expert. Working from the original recipe, ADM was able to recreate the doughnut, making alterations for modern tastes and baking methods.

Lee then had a working mix and needed to find a bakery and a packaging company. He went and saw another old friend, Paul Leland at Frontier Packaging. Paul was so excited about the project, he immediately began coordinating development of the box with the staff at The Salvation Army’s NW Community Relations Department.

Like the ingredients for the original doughnut, everything was coming together in a combination of people and circumstances that would prove to be unmatched in Lee’s history of product development.
As Lee worked on the product, the Army’s community relations staff worked to create the marketing pieces. Community Relations Director Jena Hubbard began researching the lore and legend of the lassies to tell the story on the back of the box. Everyone felt it was vital that the story of the doughnut and The Salvation Army be told with each box.

Through providence, graphic designer Megan Lyon came upon a 1919 Saturday Evening Post cover featuring a lassie and a soldier with The Salvation Army famous doughnut. It was an amazing find, and even more amazing was that Curtis Publishing waived licensing fees for the Army to use the Saturday Evening Post cover on the doughnut box and all promotional material.

In an email to Lee, Donna Schnittgen, licensing coordinator for Curtis Publishing said, “…partnering companies like ours along with Archer Daniels Midland, Frontier Packaging and Kroger [Fred Meyer] can make a world of difference in helping to sustain the good works of The Salvation Army!”

Any good doughnut is a circle. Lee returned to Darrell Webb at Fred Meyer with the mix and the package, complete with the design and background story.

Darrell introduced Lee to John Mohatt, sales manager at Fred Meyer’s Clackamas bakery. Mohatt took on the project to guide the marketing strategy and help The Salvation Army’s Famous doughnut to the final specs.
All told, Fred Meyer, ADM Milling, Frontier Packaging and Curtis Publishing have given thousand of dollars in in-kind donations to launch the product.

Thanks to the hard work of Lee Stiles, Salvation Army staff in The Northwest and Cascade Divisions, and our generous partners, The Salvation Army Famous Doughnut comes to Fred Meyer stores in Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Alaska on January 5, 2004.
Why buy The Salvation Army famous doughnut? The back of the new doughnut box says it best:

The Salvation Army Famous Doughnut is again on the front lines of war. This time around, however, the battle is being fought against the unfair penalties of poverty: hopelessness, homelessness and hunger. Each time a box of Famous Doughnuts is sold, The Salvation Army’s financial ammunition against hopelessness, homelessness and hunger is replenished.


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