Kiwanis International was founded in 1915 in Detroit, Michigan, U.S. The organization was originally called the Supreme Lodge Benevolent Order of Brothers. A year later, the name changed to Kiwanis, which was selected by the organization’s founders based on their understanding that the word was translatable to “we build” from the Algonquian Native American language family. That same year, Kiwanis became an international organization with the founding of the Kiwanis Club of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. 

Initially focused on business networking, the organization changed its focus to service in 1919 — specifically service to children. Over the years, more clubs were created in the U.S. and Canada, and worldwide expansion was ultimately approved in the 1960s. Today, there are Kiwanis clubs in nearly 80 nations and geographic locations.