The first Kiwanis club was organized in Detroit, Michigan. The group received a charter from the state of Michigan on January 21, 1915, and this is regarded as the birth date of Kiwanis.
The first clubs were organized to promote the exchange of business among the members. However, even before the Detroit club received its State charter, the members were distributing Christmas baskets to the poor. A lively debate ensued between those who supported community service as the Kiwanis mission and those who supported the exchange of business. By 1919, the service advocates won the debate.