The name “Kiwanis” was coined from an Otchipew American Indian expression, "Nunc Kee-wanis", which according to the translator can mean "we trade," "we share our talents," "we make a noise," or "we meet." You should get the impression that we have a great time at what ever we are doing.
The organization's founders translated it as "We build," which became the original motto. The current motto is "Serving the Children of the World".
Kiwanis International was founded in 1915 in Detroit, Michigan. In the early years, members focused on business networking. In 1916, Kiwanis became an international organization with the creation of the Kiwanis Club of Hamilton, Ontario. In 1919, the organization changed its focus to service. By 1962, worldwide expansion was approved. In 1987, women officially were allowed into the membership
The Kiwanis Club of Eugene was chartered on March 25, 1920, only 5 years after Kiwanis was founded in Detroit, Michigan.
In 2010 The Kiwanis Club of Eugene celebrated its 90th anniversary.
It was the first service club in Eugene and the second Kiwanis Club in Oregon. Walter Norton, Dean of the School of Business Administration at the University of Oregon, was installed as the first president.
The Club long has sponsored projects that engender civic improvement. In 1925, the same year the Club was founded, charter member Olando Hollis became chair of the Chamber of Commerce Airport Committee. Eugene's first airport was laid out at 18th and Chambers. In 1986, the Club established a Fund for Pediatric Counseling at Sacred Heart Hospital.
Starting with an uncommon interest in music, member Hugh Winder organized a male quartet in 1925. . “The Singing Kiwanians” were a hit, expanding soon thereafter into a double quartet, then a large chorus- The Eugene Gleemen”
Other club members have been instrumental, with the backing of the Club, in establishing Eugene Hearing & Speech.
The Club was also played a key role in starting the Oregon Asian Festival and the Asian Kite Festival. Both celebrate 27 years in 2012.
In the 1950's and 60's the Club had a close connection with the 4H auction. The club ran the barbecue, buying and preparing the food, serving it and then cleaning it up. The Club also clerked the auction and provided spotters in the ring, and handled the auction proceeds.
Then there were the infamous Boat Races. The Club attracted about 15,000 people to the shores of Dexter Lake. unfortunately, on the Monday before the Sunday races, the Army Corps of Engineers told the Club that they could not charge for parking, plus another thing or two. It was a big money loser for the club. The expenses and prizes still had to be and were paid.
However, even that fiasco produced something good. The Club formed the Eugene Kiwanis Foundation to enable its members to contribute around a $100 each and treat them as a charitable donation. Since then the Foundation has been able to grow its principal, awarding thousands of dollars in college scholarships and grants to various other charitable organizations.
Over the years the Eugene Club has been able to expand its work by starting and sponsoring two other clubs in Eugene, plus clubs in Springfield, Creswell, and Juntion City.