Kiwanis International was founded in 1915 in Detroit, Michigan, U.S., by a group of businessmen who called the organization the Supreme Lodge Benevolent Order of Brothers. The name changed to Kiwanis in 1916, after a Native American expression: “Nunc Kee-wanis.” (“We trade.”) 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.