Kiwanis Club History

Kiwanis Club Of Ann Arbor History of Service

Kiwanis International was founded in Detroit, Michigan in 1915 by a group of businessmen. By 1919 the group identified its focus to service, specifically service to children. Today, Kiwanis clubs and over 600,000 members are helping children thrive, prosper, and grow in nearly 80 nations and geographic locations.

The Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor was organized on May 13, 1921, and was chartered on June 13, 1921, with 60 charter members. The Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor Foundation, Inc. was incorporated as a domestic nonprofit organization with the State of Michigan on November 4, 1964.  The Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor Foundation Inc. was recognized by the US Internal Revenue Service as a tax-exempt nonprofit (501(c)(3) corporation on March 17, 1965. The Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor is one of the largest Kiwanis Clubs in Michigan. Membership is open to men and women.

Women Join Kiwanis:  Kiwanis International opened membership to women based on a 2/3 plus approval vote at its International Convention in 1987.  Prior to that time women as members had been under discussion for more than ten years at the Kiwanis International level.  However prior to 1987, some local individual Kiwanis clubs had moved ahead of the International by supporting women as local club members while discussions continued at the international level.  In 1987, within the first six months after Kiwanis International approval, over 3,000 women became official members of Kiwanis.  During the following year of 1988 that number doubled and continues to grow to this day.  In 1999 the first woman was elected as President of Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor.  The Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor has had the office of Club President held by women six times since 1993, of which four times have occurred within the last seven years.  Next year (2022) the office of Club President will also be held by a woman.  As of October 2021, of the 152 members of the Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor, 54 are women.

We are a welcoming organization.  For information about becoming a member or volunteer click here.  For information regarding our Kiwanis Club’s and Foundation’s Code of conduct policy click here.

Since 1921 through the proceeds from our Kiwanis Thrift Sale, gifts and work from our members, volunteers and staff, we have provided over $9,100,000 in grants, services, and merchandize to children, families, and individuals across our community. For more information, please click on our annual ANNUAL REPORT.

C. S. Mott Children’s Hospital Child and Family Life Services Program.

Kiwanis supports this program in four Children’s Hospitals across Michigan. In 1922, our Ann Arbor club began working with the University of Michigan (U of M) Hospital to provide recreation and education for children staying there for long periods of time. In 1934, the work was adopted as a Kiwanis Michigan District project and named for Forney W. Clement, a former Kiwanis District Secretary and member of our Ann Arbor club. This project, called the Child and Family Life Services Program, was extended to the Mary Free Bed Hospital in Grand Rapids in 1961, to Northern Michigan Hospitals, Inc. in Petoskey in 1977, and to Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit in the 1980s. Our club members make an annual gift to the Kiwanis Michigan District to support the Child and Family Life Services Programs at these four hospitals, and also contribute monthly to the “Mott Pott” to provide additional support to the Clement Child and Family Life Services Program at the U of M C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.

Meals on Wheels.

Club members and volunteers have a long history of support of delivering meals for Meals on Wheels program. Meal deliveries are made Monday through Friday each week. Annually over 5,000 meals are delivered.

Kiwanis Voucher Program and Direct Gifts.

The Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor Voucher Program is a program whereby social workers can bring clients to the Kiwanis Activities Center to shop for needed items at the Kiwanis Thrift Sale at no cost. This program started in 2000. In addition, our Kiwanis Thrift sale makes periodic gifts each year of merchandize directly to service agencies to support families.

Kiwanis Thrift Sale.

The Kiwanis club of Ann Arbor began raising money through an annual rummage thrift sale in 1927. Sales were held mostly at the National Guard Armory several times each year until 1968. We bought a building in 1966 located at 200 S. First Street, at the corner of First and Washington Streets, for club activities and the Kiwanis Thrift Sale. In 1990 the Kiwanis Thrift Sale started weekly hours on Saturdays 9 to noon. Starting in 2000, we were provided temporary use of two different warehouses to support the growing Kiwanis Thrift Sale. After 50 years our Kiwanis Thrift Sale needed a larger building and purchased the current building on Staebler Road in 2014. In 2017 the Kiwanis downtown Ann Arbor building was sold and all Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor activities and its weekly Kiwanis Thrift Sale moved to its current much larger location at 100 N. Staebler Road at the corner of W. Jackson Road, Ann Arbor.  Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 our Sale was opened on both Friday and Saturday mornings, The Kiwanis Thrift Sale opened Saturdays only from September 19 through November 14, 2020. However on November 21, 2020, the Kiwanis Thrift Sale again temporary closed due to an abundance of caution and concern. Due to COVID-19 we closed for a total of 27 weeks in 2020-2021.  First, the Kiwanis Thrift Sale reopened on April 3, 2021, on SATURDAYS only from 9am to 1pm. Then effective May 21, 2021, Kiwanis Thrift Sale also reopened on FRIDAYS with hours from 9am to 1pm.  So NOW once again we are open for sales to the public on BOTH FRIDAYS and SATURDAYS from 9am to 1pm.  DROP OFF DONATIONS from the public restarted on May 29, 2021, for Saturdays ONLY from 9am to noon.  It’s great to be back.  As always the safety of our volunteers, members, staff, and customers continues to be important to us.  Thank you for your understanding and on-going support throughout the years.

Warm The Children Program.

In 2017 the Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor Foundation became the official sponsor of the Warm The Children program This program provides new winter clothes to children.

Gifts Beyond the Local Community

The Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor members also have history of supporting world-wide health projects in partnership with Kiwanis International, UNCIEF and other agencies. These gifts come directly from individual members, not the Kiwanis Thrift Sale. Three of these projects included two world-wide campaigns. The first was a campaign to end Iodine Deficiency Disorders with $104,268 donations from members, and second was a campaign to Eliminate Maternal Neonatal Tetanus campaign with $104,905 donations from members, and most recently a local campaign to support the Haiti Nurses with over $100,000 in donations from members as of 2020.

Kiwanis Environmental Education Preserve (KEEP)

Next to The Kiwanis Center building at 100 N. Staebler Rd, home of the Kiwanis Thrift Sale, are 7 ½ areas set aside for the development of an environmental education preserve as a future service project.

Kiwanis Service Leadership Programs (SLP) and Youth Support.

Student leadership and volunteer programs at supported the University of Michigan, and in the past years in area high, middle, and elementary schools. A local Club Scout pack is also sponsored.

Proceeds from the Kiwanis Thrift Sale and other fund-raising efforts enable the Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor Foundation to fund activities of many children and family agencies and area organizations.

Through an annual grant application process, grants are reviewed and made to area social service organizations to support their direct work with children, families and individuals across our community.


Summer residential campership scholarships are supported for middle and high school students.


High school graduate scholarships are provided. Starting in 2019 in partnership with Washtenaw Community College (WCC) we began an increased level of support to students. Now called Kiwanis “Finish Line” scholarships, these scholarships provide on-going support to pay for tuition, books, and fees so that an individual student can “finish” or complete an Associate Degree at WCC.


Special gifts. Periodically, the Foundation has made substantial gifts (up to $25,000) to various community organizations as part of their capital campaigns (e.g., buildings that house the Ann Arbor YMCA, Red Cross, and Salvation Army; and the Washtenaw Intermediate School District Greenhouse Project) or to projects that significantly enhance the community (e.g., Ann Arbor Public Library Bookmobile, Ann Arbor Fire Department Smoke House, The Neutral Zone center for teenagers, Ann Arbor Hands-On Museum, Dawn Farm, Washtenaw Area Council for Children, Peace Neighborhood Center, and Hope Dental Clinic).  In 2020 in addition to its annual grant cycle, the Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor Foundation provided an additional $75,000 to 4 local nonprofits to assist them in responding to COVID-19 as follows:  $20,000 to Food Gatherers of Ann Arbor, $20,000 to Shelter Association of Washtenaw County, $20,000 to the Hope Clinic of Ypsilanti, and $15,000 to Foundations Preschool of Ypsilanti. 

The Kiwanis Club of Ann Arbor will be celebrating its 100th anniversary in June 2021. Through all those years there has been excellent leadership, steadfast participation by its members and volunteers, and on-going support from the community. We could not do it without you! Thank You!