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Kiwanis History

On January 21, 1915 in Detroit, Michigan, Allen Simpson Browne created a business organization named Benevolent Orders Brothers (BOB).  It didn't take long for the BOBs to change their name to Kiwanis, coined from an expression in an American Indian language, "nunc Kee-wanis," which means "we trade" or "we have a good time."  Soon a debate ensued between those who supported community service as the Kiwanis mission and those who wanted the mission to be exchange of business.  By 1919, the service advocates won the debate.  The group then changed their "We Trade" motto to "We Build" and chose a new purpose: SERVICE.

Kiwanis first became international in Canada, in 1919, and limited its membership to the U.S. and Canada, until 1962, when worldwide expansion was approved.

Today, Kiwanis International has more than 600,000 members in more than 80 countries, host nearly 150,000 service projects and raise nearly $100 million a year.  Kiwanis raises awareness of the needs in the community and around the world and works with other like-minded people to help with solutions.


Key Club, the high school clubs sponsored by Kiwanis, has more than 500,000 members in 5,000 high schools, mostly in the U.S. and Canada, Circle K clubs for collegians, KIWIN'S clubs, also for high schoolers, Builders clubs for junior high, K-Kids clubs for elementary students, and Aktion clubs, for adults with disabilities, make up the rest of the Kiwanis family of service clubs.

Kiwanis, and the clubs it sponsors, promote the ideals of voluntary service, as a means to improve lives, create fellowship, and give back to the community.  The primary objectives of the club are best described within the SIX OBJECTS of KIWANIS, approved in 1924, and unchanged since that time.


To give primacy to the human spirit, rather than to the material values of life.

To encourage the daily living of the Golden Rule, in all human relationships.

To promote the adoption and application of higher social, business, and professional standards.

To develop, by precept and example, a more intelligent, aggressive, and serviceable citizenship.

To provide, through Kiwanis clubs, a practical means to form enduring friendships, to render altruistic service, and to build better communities.

To cooperate in creating, and maintaining, that sound public opinion and high idealism, which make possible the increase of righteousness, justice, patriotism, and goodwill.

Generations of commitment: Many clubs sponsor a Kiwanis family club—K-Kids for primary school children; Builders Club for adolescents; Key Club for teens; CKI clubs for university students and Aktion Clubs for adults living with disabilities. There are also teen leadership weekend retreats, literacy programs, Bring Up Grades programs, Terrific Kids character development programs, and more!

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