There has always been a need for good fellowship and service. As far back as the beginning of time, there was a need for camaraderie and the desire to support communities. The history of Kiwanis and how it began is, in large part, the story of how fellowship and service developed within an organization. It is the special kind of service that Kiwanis offers and which today, crosses many national, cultural, and personal lines. Today, as in the early 1900s, Kiwanians demonstrate in many ways how they join together, understand, and help to solve the pressing problems their communities face.
The two founders, back in 1914, developed an organization that provided not only fellowship, but one that provided insurance features as well. They wanted to develop a group that was like no other organization. They first constructed this group as a strictly fraternal club that only young professional businessmen could join. This changed in 1987, when Kiwanis International changed their by-laws to include women. Presently, there are more than 50,000 women members. Together, these two men began recruiting new members. The name chosen for the group was truly in the spirit of the times: The Supreme Lodge Benevolent Order Brothers. The growing membership soon fixed that. They quickly grew tired of belonging to an organization known as BOB for short. With a helping hand from Detroit’s official historian, an Indian phrase – “NunKee-wan-is” was adapted as a name. During a club meeting in the first week of January 1915, Kiwanis was approved as the new name for this club, which translated as “We trade” or “We share our talents”.
In 1920, something important crystallized for Kiwanis; something simple, two words “We Build” – as the Kiwanis motto. It was the coining of the Motto; We build, which became the guiding force and inspiration for the important work of Kiwanis. They promised then, as they do now, that for Kiwanis, the best is yet to be. Today, Kiwanis has adopted a new slogan, Serving the Children of the World.
KIWANIS: THE BEGINNING TO THE PRESENT
Kiwanis is a worldwide service organization of men and women who share the challenge of community and world improvement. Since its founding, Kiwanis has grown to more than 8,600 clubs in 92 countries. There are approximately 600,000 active members in the Kiwanis family, representing nearly every culture on every continent, all seeking to improve people’s lives. Kiwanians are individuals who give their time to make their communities and the world better places in which to live and work. As members of a club, they have the opportunity 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 lifelong friendships.
Kiwanis Clubs take on humanitarian and civic projects that 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 their time for projects involving children or persons in need.
Kiwanis also plays a special role in developing future generations of leads which is a main distinction between Kiwanis and other organizations is the commitment to include and develop organizations for young people. Kiwanis sponsors clubs, such as:
- K-Kids: Elementary level children
- Builders Clubs: Middle School level
- Key Clubs: High School level
- Circle K Clubs: College level
All 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 the children through projects in pediatric trauma, safety, child care, early development, infant health, nutrition, and parenting skills. Under this program, Kiwanis is engaged in its first Worldwide Service Project. Kiwanis has teamed up with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to virtually eliminate IDD-iodine deficiency disorders. These disorders cause various degrees of mental and physical impairment in the fetus and in young children. The Kiwanis International Foundation assists Kiwanis International in serving the world by funding worthy causes that are beyond the capacity of individual clubs.
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 that adults still value community service and voluntarism. The corporate community is open to cause-related marketing projects and can react to the needs of their 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.