The Kiwanis Club of Geneseo was chartered as one of 7,700 clubs in 80 countries in 1920. Our motto is “Serving the Children of the World”.
The history of Kiwanis and how it began is, in large part, the story of how fellowship and service developed within an organization. The first Kiwanis Club was organized in Detroit, Michigan on Jan. 21, 1915. A year later, when a club was chartered in Ontario, Canada, Kiwanis International was born. Today, 106 years later, Kiwanis Clubs are active in every part of the world.
The name “Kiwanis” comes from an expression in an American Indian language of the Detroit area, Nunc Kee-wanis, which means “we trade” or translated “we have a good time.” Kiwanis International would soon grow into a world-wide service organization, with the ideal of public service to the communities in which it had clubs. The original motto of Kiwanis, “We Build”, was changed and adopted at the 2005 International Convention in Hawaii to “Serving the Children of the World”.
The Geneseo Kiwanis Club was chartered on October 22, 1920, sponsored by the Galesburg Kiwanis Club. During the Great Depression of the thirties, the club’s affiliation with the International organization was suspended sometime in the year of 1933. However, a nucleus was kept together throughout this period by a Community Club which met monthly for dinner meetings and programs. Members have met weekly over the past 101 years with the purpose of service to the community and assistance to the aging, the needy and the youth of Geneseo. Our 100th year (2020) was interrupted by COVID-19. The spread of this disease forced our club to suspend weekly meetings, going to ‘Zoom” internet meetings to maintain contact with members, and forcing the cancellation of many club fund-raising projects as well as suspending our 100th yr. “Centennial Celebration” for a year. Our club resumed regular weekly meetings and activities during the last 6 months of the 2021 Kiwanis year and is looking forward to a return of activities and meetings as we begin the 2021-2022 year.
Over the years our support of organizations like the Children’s Miracle Network, assisting seniors with completing their income tax forms, providing college scholarships for high school seniors, volunteer work at Hammond Henry Hospital, and working with Abilities Plus for the disabled has continued our service to others. Our club has sponsored Boy Scout Troop 131 since its formation.
An early project of our club was providing the funds to send Izzie Fagan, a local boy needing a special type of wheelchair and leg braces to a clinic to be fitted with these braces. Later, the organization bought a wheelchair for John Edberg enabling him to get around town. More recently, local projects such as Swim for Fun Day at the Geneseo Pool, a parade of pets and vehicles (later named the Doo-Dah Parade), and support of Boys and Girl Scouts were popular. Kiwanis has two Sponsored Youth activities in our school system, the High School Key Club, chartered in April, 1996 and the Middle School Builders Club, chartered in Feb. 2000, both formed to develop a sense of community service in these young people. A satellite club (Young Professionals) has been organized to support the Kiwanis Clubs projects. Corporate memberships were initiated in Sept. of 2017 which allows local companies to become ‘club members’ participating in club meetings and events.
Our local club has supported many of the Kiwanis International’s Worldwide service projects such as the 1994 IDD (Iodine Deficiency Disorders) $100 million campaign; most recently the 2010 Eliminate project, a joint campaign with UNICEF, to raise $110 million in an effort to eliminate maternal and neonatal tetanus from countries affected by the disease and Geneseo Kiwanis met the Gold Level for clubs in the fight to eliminate MNT.
We also participate in I-I District project of the Kiwanis Neuroscience Research Foundation through an annual Bowl-A-Thon, club giving, and the awarding of Amador awards.
To support our service projects, four money-making projects, Kiwanis Pancake Day, Spring Chicken Fest, July 4th Pork in the Park, and Peanut Day are currently the main source of our service funds. We are most proud of two recent community service projects. First, we doubled the size of the Geneseo Park Shelter, now named the Kiwanis Pavilion. Second, the new construction of the Geneseo-Atkinson Food Pantry was started in the Fall of 2016 with local contractors and mostly Kiwanis volunteer workers and was completed in early 2018. Thanks to our dedicated members over the past 101 years that the Geneseo Kiwanis Club has been making a difference in our community.