Our History

A brief history of Kiwanis International and The Kiwanis Club of Fort Myers Beach, Florida

Kiwanis International was founded in 1915 by a group of businessmen in Detroit, Michigan, USA. The organization was originally called the Supreme Lodge Benevolent Order of Brothers, but changed its name to Kiwanis a year later.

The name "Kiwanis" was coined from an expression in an American Indian language of the Detroit area, "Nunc Kee-wanis," which means, "we trade." In 1920, the motto of Kiwanis became “We Build.” It remained the motto until 2005, when members voted to change it to “serving the children of the world.” In the early years, members focused on business networking but in 1919, the organization changed its focus to service—specifically service to children.

Kiwanis became an international organization with the founding of the Kiwanis Club of Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, in 1916. Kiwanis clubs formed in communities across the United States and Canada until the 1960s when worldwide expansion was approved. Today, Kiwanis clubs are helping children thrive, prosper and grow in nearly 80 nations and geographic locations.  

All people are welcome to participate in the Kiwanis movement of improving communities for children. In 1987, women were invited to join. In 2008, delegates approved a resolution that calls for Kiwanis clubs to celebrate and foster inclusiveness.

The Kiwanis Club of Fort Myers Beach was founded in 1968.  When 25 residents got together to form a club to serve the children of their community.  In the early years funds were raised by selling Peanuts, serving Spaghetti dinners, Taking Orders for Citrus Fruit shipments, serving Crab Cake Dinners, the Sale of Christmas Trees and an annual Rummage sale.  The Rummage sale led to todays Thrift Shop thanks to the efforts of a former member Frank McDonald.