Kiwanis Club also called the Knights of the Order of the Loyal Order of the Elk has various characteristics that set it apart from other fraternal organizations. The name was derived from a story that an English farmer told his son. According to this story, the Kiwanis (elks) once lived in a village but then decided to establish a settlement out in the desert. In recognition of their services, the Kiwanis established this lodge as a home for their young men who were studying to become knights in the coming years. It was called The Great lodge and later became a retreat for the elite class of horse riders and others interested in similar sports.
Today, the Kiwanis club has various activities and service projects to give primacy to spiritual rather than material needs. This is in line with their fundamental philosophy which is known as the notion of giving priority to spiritual life over material needs. The Kiwanis believe that true enlightenment comes from within rather than from material things such as gold or silver. Their Knights of the Order of the Elk give primacy to spiritual and social considerations over any other considerations.
The Kiwanis believe in promoting social equity so they have taken an innovative approach to their membership demographics. They are not exclusive to any geographical area or demographic and hence have an active membership population in every state of the union and in all American Indian tribes. They give prime importance to spiritual and social involvement in one’s life and therefore have clubs or service projects in almost every state of the union. These service projects focus on one community at a time and hence each club has its own motto and special characteristic. Some of the examples are:
Kiwanis Clubs in the United States comprises fifty-two chapters with thirty-five thousand members. The main focuses of the club however are spiritual, social, economic, and social justice. The Chicago chapter is the fourth largest Kiwanis club in the entire United States and counts among its members some prominent politicians and businessmen. The Kiwanis Clubs throughout the nation has similar characteristics with their counterparts from Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Australia and other nations.
A majority of the clubs today are service-based with the most common service projects being a homeless shelter, feeding program for the poor, and health care. Social Service Projects, including the home building program and youth leadership programs, are also very common among the clubs. The home builder’s club in particular has a very strong emphasis on home buying and selling through the use of a real estate agent by Kiwanis people and other first time home buyers.
There are some notable figures among the Kiwanis that are most well-known within the clubs and in the Kiwanis community as well. Donald W. Winnicott, Jr., is the founder of the North American Kiwanis Club and continues to serve as its president today. Winnicott is a three-time winner of the county grandmastercy award and serves as the state director for the Knights of Columbus. Frank Michtom is the secretary-general of the Northern California and Oregon Knights of Columbus.
Other important figures in the national headquarters and the local chapters include Walter P. Mahoney, attorney general of the state of Minnesota; John J. Woolf, Jr., former United States Senator; William R. Keelan, pastor of the Pacific Orthodox Presbyterian Church in Santa Rosa, California; Arthur L. Miner, member of the Pacific Coast Board of God ministers; and Zvi Zuckerman, editor in chief of the quarterly newsletter, “The Jewish Connection.” All these men maintain a high regard for the koinonia and give primacy to spiritual rather than material things. The motto, quoted by Rev. Richard C. Larivitz, D.D., in his book, “The Spiritualist Newsletter,” is, “Theologically pure, economically productive, religiously tolerant, ologically sound.” He further adds, “It is imperative that the members of our clubs have the confidence to accept people of other religions, irrespective of race, color, creed, or national origin.”
Many other philanthropic activities are performed by the various clubs of the Kiwanis throughout the world. In Florida, for example, the Knights of Columbus has taken up the cause of helping to build affordable housing. At the same time, the club sponsors community events and fundraisers, such as the Days of Light program at St. Phillips Cathedral in Daytona Beach. The goal of the international organization, according to a recent press release, is “to strengthen the network of active and involved Jews around the world and to strengthen the relationships that exist at the local, regional, national, and international levels.”