The first clubs were organized to promote the exchange of business among the members. However the members were distributing Christmas baskets to the poor. A lively debate ensued between those who supported community service as the Kiwanis mission and those who supported the exchange of business. By 1919, the service advocates won the debate.
Kiwanis was founded in Detroit, Michigan, on January 21, 1915.
In the early years, Kiwanis clubs focused on business networking,but even then, members were serving the needs of the poor.
By 1919, the organization had changed its focus from business to service.
Kiwanis became an international organization in 1916 with the organization of the Kiwanis Club of Hamilton, Ontario.
Kiwanis limited its membership to the United States and Canada until 1962 when worldwide expansion was approved.
Until 1987, Kiwanis was a male-only organization. But after years of debate and growing support, women’s membership was received overwhelmingly.
Kiwanis International is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time. Kiwanis and its youth-oriented Service Leadership Programs serve communities in more than 80 countries and geographic areas.
Kiwanis International now comprises 600,000 members — men, women boys and girls — worldwide.