Our History

Kiwanis first came to Kalamazoo as the nation stood on the brink of entering World War I. In 1916 Dr. Leslie DeWitt signed on as Kalamazoo’s first Kiwanian and it was on Jan. 10, 1917. That organizational meeting was held in the Burdick Hotel, which used to be in the very same location as the Radisson, where we still meet every week. At that initial meeting of the Kiwanis Club of Kalamazoo, the 72 men who were to be charter members elected Dr. James T. Upjohn as their first club President.

Club Milestones

  • 1917: The fourth club to be organized in Michigan and the 37th to be chartered in the nation
  • 1917: Began support of Pretty Lake Vacation Camp
  • 1919: Co-founded the Battle Creek Kiwanis Club
  • 1920: A shift in the focus of our club from the motto “We Trade” to “We Build” and became a service club instead of a business network
  • 1920: Established a partnership with Rotary to establish the Boy Scout Camp, RotaKiwan
  • 1923: First hosting of the Michigan District Convention
  • 1930: Partnered with the Service Club of Kalamazoo (now the Junior League) as principal sponsors of Pretty Lake Camp
  • 1930: Pretty Lake Tag Day begins
  • 1942: Sponsored the formation of Constance Brown Hearing Centers
  • 1947: Kiwanis Travel and Adventure Lectures begins
  • 1953: Sponsored the Suburban Kiwanis Club
  • 1953: Sponsored the Central High Key Club and the K College Circle K Club
  • 1957: Sponsored West Side Kiwanis Club
  • 1970: Pretty Lake Business Campaign begins
  • 1987: Kiwanis International by-laws changed to admit women as members, and our club welcomed two
  • 1991: Sponsored Golden K Kiwanis
  • 1993: Sponsored Sunrise Kiwanis Club
  • 2007: Began the purchase and delivery of dictionaries to every third grader in the Kalamazoo Public School system
  • 2008: Partnered with the Northside Association for Community Development to build a splash water park on Florence Street
  • 2012: Began Flags Across Kalamazoo subscription fundraiser
  • 20??: Absorbed the Suburban Kiwanis Club
  • 2019: Began support for the formation of Children’s Nature Playscape

Read the full story (PDF) written by Past President, Scott Scrum, in 2017 at our 100th-anniversary dinner and celebration.

What we are doing now?