Kiwanis International


Kiwanis International started in 1915 as a business and professional men's club in Detroit, Michigan. The unusual name of “Kiwanis” came from the American Indian expression, which is translated as “We Build.” 

The original Kiwanis Club of Detroit began with a tailor, Joseph G. Prance, and a professional fraternity organizer, Allen S. Browne. The idea spread quickly with Allen's assistance and went international the very next year with the Hamilton, Ontario, Canada club. Kiwanis clubs spread throughout the United States and Canada over the next forty-six years. In 1962 Kiwanis clubs began to spread worldwide. Today, there are “8,000 clubs in 96 countries with over 260,000 adult members.”1

In 1919, the original purpose of exchanging business between members and serving the poor was refined to “serving the children of the world.”  And what was originally a men's only service club became, in 1987, an open club for men and women. Currently, Kiwanis clubs “sponsor nearly 150,000 service projects and have raised more than $107 million.”

Kiwanis International is now headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, with a Board of Trustees headed by an International President. They have fifty-three administrative districts, which are over divisions that oversee up to 20 clubs. Each local Kiwanis club has a president and a board of directors.

Kiwanis International has two main focuses today:  service and promoting service leadership in youth. The Kiwanis International Foundation, which raises the money for their charitable work, was given the top rating by in 2007. With their funds they help house the homeless, feed the hungry, guide the disadvantaged, care for the sick, and raise funds for pediatric research. And, they build playgrounds around the world.

Each edition of the Kiwanis Magazine has a feature on a current playground project and the importance of safe play for children. Further examples of their commitment to play spaces worldwide are the projects they annually fund. At one of Kiwanis International's three annual meetings in 2005 to approve grants, five of the thirteen grants approved were for playgrounds. They also maintain a Playground Resources page on their website to assist the local clubs in starting play space projects.

Typically, a local Kiwanis club identifies a playground need and begins the process of planning what is needed to make it reality. With local leadership working with others in the community, local fund raising, and Kiwanis International grants, the community project is completed. Kiwanis clubs often focus on playgrounds, because they are a long-term capital investment in the local community, and they directly serve the children.

  • 1. “Kiwanis” Wikipedia. 3 Aug. 2010.