• 1915: Kiwanis is founded

    The organization originated in August 1914 in Detroit, Michigan from a conversation between Allen S.  Browne and Joseph G.  Prance.  Browne's idea was to solicit business and professional men asking them if they would be interested in organizing a fraternal organization with a health benefit feature.  Browne was compensated five dollars per new member that joined for his operating budget.  Browne and Prance set out and recruited enough members to apply to the state for a not for profit status.  The state approved the application on January 21, 1915 and the Supreme Lodge Benevolent Order Brothers was formed.  The name was changed to Kiwanis a year later.  The Kiwanis Club of Detroit is the original local club in Kiwanis. By 1927 the organization had more than 100,000 members.

  • 1916: Kiwanis Goes International

    Kiwanis became truly international with the organization of the Kiwanis Club of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1916.  Kiwanis limited its membership to the United States and Canada until 1962, when worldwide expansion was approved.  Since then, Kiwanis has spread to all inhabited continents of the globe.

  • 1919: Kiwanis Adopts a Service-focused Mission

    The original purpose of Kiwanis was to exchange business between members and to serve the poor.  The debate as to whether to focus on networking or service was resolved in 1919, when Kiwanis adopted a service-focused mission.  In 1924, the Objects of Kiwanis were adopted and remain unchanged today.

     

    Each year, clubs sponsor nearly 150,000 service projects and as a global project in coordination with UNICEF, members and clubs contributed more than $80 million toward the global elimination of iodine deficiency disorders (IDD), the leading preventable cause of mental retardation.

     

  • 1925: Education is Key

    Kiwanis sponsors the first Key Club at a Sacramento High School in California in 1925. Two years later, an emphasis on education is introduced at the 1927 convention in Memphis, Tennessee.

     

  • 1960s: Continued Growth

    By 1961, Kiwanis International is 5000 clubs strong, and convention delegates vote to open clubs outside the United States and Canada. On May 15, 1962, The Kiwanis Club of Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico, becomes the first club organized outside the United States and Canada.

     

    In February of 1963, the club spreads its international wings with the first European club organized in Vienna, Austria. Then, in 1964, Tokyo, Japan opens Asia's first club.

     

    The first club in Central/ South America is organized in Bucaramanga, Colombia, in 1967. Key Club grows beyond the United States and Canada, forming a club in Nassau, Bahamas.

  • 1970s-1980s: Stronger Together

    Circle K opens its membership to women in 1973, and female membership opens in Key Club wherever area laws require in 1975, expanding to all clubs in 1977.

     

    After years of deliberation, in 1987, delegates approve an amendment to welcome female members into Kiwanis clubs. More than 3,000 women join within the first six months.

     

    By action of the International Convention in 1987, women now constitute well over 26% of total members.

  • 1990s-2000s: Kiwanis Kids Around

    In 1990, Kiwanis launches a three-year Major Emphasis Program, Young Children: Priority One.

     

    A few years later, in 1999, K-Kids club officially joins the Kiwanis family as a service club for elementary school students.

     

    Then, in 2004, Service leadership is introduced to teenage students through Key Leader weekends.

     

    A year later, “Serving the Children of the World” becomes the new Kiwanis motto.

     

    At the 2010 international convention in Las Vegas, Kiwanis pledges to raise US$110 million and join UNICEF in the effort to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus from countries still affected by the disease.

     

  • 2010: UNICEF and Kiwanis

    Each year, clubs sponsor nearly 150,000 service projects and as a global project in coordination with UNICEF, members and clubs contributed more than $80 million toward the global elimination of iodine deficiency disorders (IDD), the leading preventable cause of mental retardation.

     

    Beginning in 2010 Kiwanis International joined with UNICEF to launch a new worldwide health initiative, The Eliminate Project, dedicated to wiping out maternal and neonatal tetanus (MNT), which kills more than 100,000 babies worldwide each year.

     

  • 2015: Shattering a Glass Ceiling

    At the 2013 International Convention, Sue Petrisin was elected as the organization's first female international vice president.  Petrisin was installed as Kiwanis International President in 2015, the year of the organization's 100th anniversary.  She is the first female to lead any major member service organization.

     

    In 2016, Jane Erickson took the helm as president, doubling down on this momentous achievement.

  • Today: Sharing in the Challenge of Community and World Improvement

    Today, Kiwanis is a worldwide service organization of men and women who share the challenge of community and world improvement.  Kiwanians give their time to make their communities and world better places in which to live and work.  As members of a club, they have opportunities to make business and professional contacts; learn firsthand about local, national, and international issues; improve and use leadership skills; participate in the life of their community and world; and develop life-long friendships.

     

    Kiwanis clubs take on humanitarian and civic projects that many public authorities are not prepared or able to perform. A typical Kiwanis club plans hands-on projects focusing on the special needs of the community, such as helping the elderly, promoting literacy, or supporting youth sports. In addition to attending a club meeting, Kiwanis members volunteer about two hours each month for projects involving children or persons in need. The Kiwanis family includes organizations for young people, which are sponsored by clubs, and the Kiwanis International Foundation. K-Kids, at the elementary level, Builders Clubs, at the middle school level, Aktion Clubs, for people who are living with a disability, Kiwanis Junior, for young adults in Europe only, between the ages of 18 and 32, Key Clubs, at the high school level, and Circle K Clubs, at the college level, provide youth the opportunity to help others, become personally involved in their community, and build a positive future for themselves.

    Kiwanis has accomplished many programs and projects to help those in need. One major continuing program is the Young Children: Priority One program. This special program addresses the needs of children through projects in pediatric trauma, safety, child care, early development, infant health, nutrition, and parenting skills.

     

    There are beneficial opportunities from being a member in Kiwanis.  A member will gain respect and fellowship within the community and also is considered a community leader. Research shows adults still value community service and voluntarism. The corporate community is open to cause-related marketing projects and can react to the needs of its community. Being a Kiwanis member can be rewarding in many ways. The greatest gift you could ever give yourself as a person is the gratification in knowing you are contributing your help, time, and efforts to people in and out of your community who are in dire need. Raising funds to help the poor, participating in fellowship, and giving something back to your community are the highest levels of self-satisfaction you can ever encounter.

     

Explore the Kiwanis History Timeline

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