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.