The international civic club known as Kiwanis International was founded in 1915 in Detroit, Michigan. The Kiwanis Club of Montgomery was founded in 1919 by 6 men, along with 49 additional charter members. Kiwanis is a global organization of volunteers dedicated to changing the world one child and one community at a time.
The early history of this club through 1969 is recorded in a book published in 1970 entitled The Kiwanis Club of Montgomery (Its First Fifty Years). It’s editor, Kiwanian William J. Mahoney, Jr., in the book’s introduction wrote, “The narrative story of the Montgomery Kiwanis Club’s first fifty years is a success story challenging the finest that fiction has to offer.” It was true then and remains true today. Throughout its history, the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery’s membership roster has represented the leading civic, government and religious leaders of this city. The present membership is almost 300, which represents the 3rd largest Kiwanis club through the 8,000+ associated Kiwanis clubs internationally. Our club is one of the wealthiest civic clubs with regard to our charitable contributions from fundraising projects like the Alabama National Fair and from endowments in our local Kiwanis Club Foundation. Our Kiwanis charity foundation supports the emerging needs of our community with special emphasis on the youth of our city.
In the 1940's, a group of local Kiwanians established a student loan fund with a pool of donated charitable dollars. The fund was named after the first president of our club, George Wheeler. Throughout the years, members have been encouraged to donate to this fund a sum of money equal to their age annually on their birthday. Alternatively, a member may donate $1,000 to this fund and be designated as a “Life Member” without further solicitation from the Club. In 1990, the name of this loan fund was changed to the Kiwanis Club of Montgomery Memorial Student Loan Fund with the addition of 26 new “Life Members.” Presently there are approximately 70 “Life Members” of this fund. The loan fund has been transformed into a Kiwanis scholarship program, which awards $4000/year to local high school students applying to college. In addition, the Jack L. Carr Scholarship Fund awards an annual $1500 scholarship to a local high school student who wishes to study engineering and attend an Alabama University. Both the Kiwanis and Carr Scholarship programs are administered by the Central Alabama Community Foundation.
In 1954, a group of men led by Jimmie Pruitt and Ben Wilbanks organized an annual fair as a fundraiser for the Kiwanis Club. In October of every year, each Kiwanian is asked to work 4 four-hour shifts at The Fair. Members in groups of 3 or 4 collect tickets at the gates. This gives us the opportunity to get to know each other and satisfy the man-hour contributions we wish to make to our community. The charitable proceeds from this event, known initially as the South Alabama State Fair and subsequently as The Alabama National Fair, have totaled over $7 million over the last 62 years. The Fair proceeds are donated each March to youth charitable organizations in the River Region.
In 1966, a long time faithful bachelor member, John A. (Pete) Peterson, willed a major portion of his estate ($775,000) to our Kiwanis Club, with instructions that the principal was to be invested by a bank trust department with the income donated to the youth charities of the city. Since that time, over $3 million has been donated from this fund to the youth of our city with a present fund principal balance of over $2.8 million. This fund over the past few years has contributed approximately $100,000 annually through the Kiwanis Club to the charitable youth needs in this city and surrounding areas.
All donations from the Pete Peterson Trust or from the annual charitable proceeds of The Alabama National Fair are at the discretion of the Board of Directors of our Club and Foundation. Each charitable request to our club is researched and reviewed by a member of our Grants Committee with subsequent recommendations to our Boards. Youth 501(c)3 organizations may apply online each November - January, with a February 1st deadline.
The Kiwanis Club of Montgomery Foundation was established to accept donations from those who wish to enhance the charitable proceeds distributed by our club each year. From all sources we donate approximately $200-300,000 annually to the emerging charitable needs in our city, a record for which we are proud. This record of support has been built by caring men and women who want to share their good work with others who are less fortunate than they.
We have many members who have been associated with Kiwanis for over 35 years and numerous active members who have celebrated their 50th year as a Kiwanian. We are all proud to be members of The Kiwanis Club of Montgomery. Our membership comprises community leaders who are willing to dedicate their lives in service and charity to our Community, State and Nation.