The first Kiwanis club was organized in Detroit, Michigan. The group received a charter from the state of Michigan on January 21, 1915, and this is regarded as the birth date of Kiwanis. We are in the midst of the 100th Anniversary Celebration of Kiwanis.
The first clubs were organized to promote the exchange of business among the members. However, even before the Detroit club received its state charter, 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 became 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. The Kiwanis Club of Nassau in the Bahamas became the first club outside of the continental Americas.
Since then, Kiwanis has spread to all inhabited continents of the globe, with Kiwanis represented in more than 80 countries and geographic entities in the world. Our own Eastern Canada and the Caribbean District, the largest and most geographically and ethnically diverse district in Kiwanis, boasts clubs in 17 different countries.
The Kiwanis Club of Forest City - London is the merger of two strong clubs, the Kiwanis Club of Forest City and the Kiwanis Club of London. Our charter dates to November 30, 1920. Among major projects supported by our club and its predecessor clubs are the Kiwanis Community Seniors Centre, Kiwanis Park, Kiwanis Skateboard Plaza, Kiwanis Bandshell, Children’s Hospital of Western Ontario, and the Kiwanis Music Festival.
Kiwanis was defined as “an organization for men” in the constitution adopted in 1924. In 1987, after several years of debate and growing support, women’s membership received overwhelming approval.
Eight Canadians have served as Kiwanis International President. Other Kiwanis International Presidents have come from Australia, Iceland, Austria, and the Philippines.
The President of Kiwanis International for the 2014-2015 club year is our own Dr. John Button, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Ridgetown, Ontario.
The Governor of the Eastern Canada and the Caribbean District of Kiwanis for the 2014-2015 club year is Serge Viau, a member of the Kiwanis Club of Lakeshore, Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.
The defining statement of Kiwanis is simply expressed: “Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to improving the world, one child and one community at a time.”
Kiwanis International will celebrate its 100th birthday on January 21, 2015.