The history of Kiwanis reflects the desire of civic-minded individuals to manifest service leadership by working to improve the lives of families, especially children, in our communities, our county, our country and, indeed, the world. Kiwanis International Founded in 1914 by two natives of Detroit, Michigan, the fledgling organization was a product of its times and was envisioned as a fraternal organization with the primary purpose of promoting business relationships. Its first name was the Supreme Lodge Benevolent Order of Brothers, but the early members grew tired of belonging to an organization known as BOB. They adopted a new name from an Indian phrase – “Nun Keewan-is” which was roughly translated to mean “we trade.” Over time, its meaning has evolved to mean "we build."
The Detroit Club, with nearly 200 members, received its corporate charter from the State of Michigan on January 21, 1915. In 1920, the motto “We Build” was adopted. In 2005 the delegates to the Kiwanis International Convention voted to adopt a new motto, “Serving the Children of the World,” emphasizing the primary focus of Kiwanis service over those nine decades and making a commitment for the years to come. So, in the years between 1915 and today, Kiwanis has evolved from a professional businessman’s fraternal organization, providing both fellowship and insurance features, to an international service organization of men and women dedicated to serving the children of the world, one community and one child at a time.
Today, Kiwanis International is a truly international service organization with over 6,000 clubs in 80 countries focusing on local, national and international service needs. Examples of the global service projects undertaken by Kiwanis include, in the 1990s, in support of UNICEF, raising more than $100 million for Iodine Deficiency Disorders (IDD) – the world’s leading preventable cause of mental retardation – and now the ELIMINATE Project. Partnering again with UNICEF, our goal was to raise $110 million in funds and commitments by 2015 to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus to save and protect the lives of 61 million mothers and their future babies through vaccine treatments in underdeveloped areas of the world. The entire Kiwanis Family worldwide, including Key Clubs, Aktion Clubs and CKI Clubs continue to participate in this effort.
“The year was 1923. The world was forgetting the horrors of a recent world war and was enjoying what was unprecedented prosperity. It was the era of the Flapper and bath tub gin in the U.S., and Americans were going around singing ‘Yes, We Have No Bananas!’ Yankee Stadium was being completed, and Adolf Hitler was organizing his Beer Hall Putsch. It was during this time that some 35 business and professional leaders met in Ashland, Virginia, with representatives of the Richmond Kiwanis Club to form a local club. Kiwanis was only eight years old, but already its programs of civic service had fired the imagination of thoughtful men throughout the country, and these visionary men of Ashland saw this organization as the right vehicle to support programs of civic improvement and personal development in our local communities. From this meeting came the Kiwanis Club of Ashland which was chartered on March 26, 1923.”
- From Ashland, Virginia Kiwanis Club – A Short History
(Note: Kiwanis International indicates that "the organization date for the Ashland VA Kiwanis Club was 2/2/1923.")
Today, we are one of the oldest Kiwanis clubs in Virginia, and the only Kiwanis club in Hanover County. Our first major project as a club was to raise funds to pave the road (now U.S. Route 1) from Ashland to north Richmond (the old Azalea Mall area). A “traditional” Kiwanis club with a membership of approximately seventy members, our Club’s service projects have been geared to Ashland and the other communities within Hanover County. These have included the construction of playgrounds, highway trash cleanups, and maintenance of garden beds in one of the area’s schools. Annually, we plan and orchestrate the Ashland Old Time Christmas/Holiday Parade for the enjoyment of all of the county’s residents. Additionally, we are active and proud sponsors of Key Club programs in four of the region’s high schools, a CKI Club at Randolph-Macon College and the Aktion Club of Ashland (Hanover County adults with disabilities). Annually, we have perfect attendance programs at four elementary schools in Hanover County as well as a Reading Mentor Program at Henry Clay Elementary School in which our volunteers provide one-on-one help weekly to children learning to read. Also, we provide four-year scholarships to selected, graduating Key Club seniors.
Mindful of its heritage, the Kiwanis Club of Ashland continues to seek meaningful ways to serve our communities and their children.