Our History

Serving the Greater Adrian, Michigan Community

The Kiwanis Club of Adrian was founded in 1940, some 35 years after Kiwanis was founded in Detroit. We have remained an active and vibrant club for the 75+ years since our creation and we have grown to well over 100 members, all serving the greater Adrian community.

Adrian Kiwanis meets for lunch every Wednesday. We enjoy our midweek diversion with a bit of song, some merriment called the Fine Session, and we share announcements. Each week we have an entertaining and informative program. The business of the club is transacted at monthly Board of Directors meetings. Ours is a very democratic club and each member is invited to the board meetings to offer his input. Our Officers and the Board of Directors are elected annually and serve a year’s term from the First of October until the last day of September.

Our club was chartered by the Hillsdale Kiwanis Club and Charter Night was September 25, 1940, with an initial membership of 34.  The Charter Night Gala was a spouse event held at the Lenawee Hotel at the corner of Winter and Maumee Streets.  There were many dignitaries from the City and from the Michigan District of Kiwanis who offered gifts and best wishes for our new club.  Marshall Reed, Michigan District Governor did induction honors and Forney Clement, District Secretary gave us our flags.  The evening included dinner and concluded with dancing in the ballroom.   The initial club officers were L.K. Cox, President; John H. Wills, Vice President; James W. Roberts, Secretary; and Squire F. Chase, Treasurer.

It should be noted that Dr. L.K. Cox was the club’s first President and 30 years later, his son, Larry Cox, became the club’s President.  Other father-son successions were Art Clift and Garry; Louie and Dick Germond; Larry and Chuck Force; Jim and Bill Roberts; and also Elmer Kapnick and Doug.  Club member Mike Kapnick added a third generation to this legacy.  Our club is built upon the strength of its membership and these father-son combinations are simply an indication of the rich tradition this club has experienced and enjoyed.

Early Kiwanis Projects

Early Adrian Kiwanians took over the toy project for needy children from the Adrian Fire Department.  This has been our longest running project still providing a Merry Christmas to needy families in the community.  This project grew from repairing used toys in Dr. L.K. Cox’s unheated garage to city-wide toy collections, cleaning and wrapping in the unheated screen door factory near the fairgrounds, to the sophisticated operation working out of the annex at the Kiwanis Riverview Terrace.   Every year we help hundreds of families enjoy Christmas.

Christmas parties for the members and their children date back to the time that Louie Germond, the Chief of Police, brought his son, our longtime member, little Richard.  As the story is told, Louie had forgotten to bring a present and quickly slipped a dollar in an envelope and put Richard’s name on it.  Richard spent the money campaigning for hall monitor in the second grade and we all know the rest of the story of our local sheriff.

A more recent tradition has been to hold a Christmas tree decorating, caroling and cookies party for the residents of the Kiwanis Riverview Terrace.  This project was started shortly after the building was first occupied and continues today.

We Build – Club Projects

The purposes and ideals of this club revolve around the Kiwanis motto of “We Build”.   Club Projects to raise money to support this Club’s history of helping others make up a large portion of its legend.  When Elmer Kapnick was President, we had the magic shows at the Armory and Rex Martin laid the foundation for the Builders’ Show which later became the Spring Festival, and later came Air Day with its eggs and sausage.  Dave Wakefield gave birth to Big Time Wresting featuring the likes of the Great Kabuki.

Pancake breakfasts were early club successful projects and were well received by all except the County Health Department.

The Antique Show at Madison School, chaired by David Siler was a popular fund raising project for nearly 20 years and the annual peanut sale and gumball projects have been consistent large money makers.  In the 1960’s the club successfully hosted two regional Corn Picking Contests that were well attended and enjoyed good weather.  Flushed with that success, the club tried its hand at sponsoring the National Corn Picking Contest intended to bring hundreds of thousands of people including Hubert Humphrey, the Vice President of the United States, to Adrian.  The event became a disaster when monsoon rains struck and left the fields looking like swamps.  The contest was finally canceled after a week of continuous rain and the club was left holding food that was prepared for thousands.

Sponsorship of additional Kiwanis Clubs

Our Club was responsible for forming and sponsoring most of the other Kiwanis clubs in Lenawee County including Tecumseh, Blissfield, Onsted, Hudson, Morenci, Addison, the now inactive Maple City Kiwanis Club, and others.  We continue meeting with these clubs on a regular basis enjoying interclub visits and division events together.

Adrian Kiwanis has also created youth clubs.  We reached out to form Key Clubs at Madison and Adrian High School, and Circle K Clubs at Adrian College and at Siena Heights University.  These youth groups consistently sought to help these around us through their own projects.  At this time only the Adrian High School Key Club is active.

We have created a special interest club recently, the Aktion Club is affiliated with Adrian Kiwanis and it is comprised of attendees of the HOPE Center of Adrian.  The Aktion Club enjoys participating in fund raising events and an annual basketball game with our Adrian Kiwanis Club.

We have also sponsored many young people at Salvation Army Summer Camps, Law Enforcement Camps, Boys State, Girls State and other youth-oriented programs.

There have been hundreds of significant projects initiated and/or supported with major contributions by our club.   Some of them include:

  • The “Welcome to Adrian” signs at the north and west city limits
  • The original and the addition to the Adrian High School Press Box
  • The Adrian Community Nursery’s building was doubled in size plus an addition
  • Major remodeling of the Associated Charities Building.
  • We sponsored the room that is now the fitness center at the YMCA
  • We were the initial contributors to the city ice rink and swimming pool funds
  • The Lenawee County Fair bunny barn and the restrooms
  • Major driving force and catalyst to several city parks: Comstock Park and Trestle Park
  • The Kiwanis Trail and the Ted Durst Kiwanis Gateway Park
  • The flag pole atop the Lenawee County Courthouse, original and replacement
  • The now removed 1976 Bicentennial Adrian Carillon Tower and music system.
  • The helipad at Bixby Hospital
  • Specialty rooms at Bixby Hospital
  • Playground equipment at Garfield and McKinley Schools
  • The Lenawee County Airport terminal building
  • Contributed to the soccer fields at Centennial Park and Island Park Playground

Kiwanis Riverview Terrace

But, the single largest project of all was the Kiwanis Riverview Terrace.  This project began when Ted Durst was President in 1966.  The project succeeded with the assistance of many Kiwanians, including Art Clift, Ted Durst, Jerry Robinette, Dick Boff, John Hathaway, and Don Copeland.

The property on College Avenue was a lumber yard and was purchased from the owner, Jim Fridd.  The building was designed by Adrian architect Francis Faulhaber ably assisted by young architect Dave Siler. The state caused us a lot of problems in financing and working out details, but we finally arrived at an arrangement of limited partners who helped finance the project with tax depreciation being their reward.  The building was constructed by Krieghoff-Lenawee Company of Adrian.

In 1973, the building was dedicated and remains perhaps the most notable reminder of the involvement and commitment of the Adrian Kiwanis Club to the Adrian area and its citizens.  The building is located at 400 College Avenue and provides 163 apartment residences in a twelve-story building.  Over the years we have made significant improvements to the property including the construction of an annex two story garage and work building, river bank improvements and the purchase and development of additional land for parking across College Avenue.

The operation of the building was very much a hands-on endeavor.  Although we hired on-site managers to look after the daily operation, we had several dedicated committees who looked after various parts of the management.  We also established the income producing washer/dryer account and antenna account that have been a steady stream of income to the club for many years.

The Club philosophy took a major turn in the early 80’s when the KRT Building became fully depreciated by our original limited partners and investors.  It became advantageous to sell the building on a land contract to a new group of investors who could start the depreciation process over again.  We sold the building and within a few years had received partial payments of nearly one million dollars.

Kiwanis Foundation of Adrian

The sudden windfall gain caused us to form a Charitable Foundation now known as the “Kiwanis Foundation of Adrian”.  The Foundation invests the money and provides the resulting income from interest to the club for use on worthy and qualifying causes.  The membership elects the foundation’s board of directors who oversee the investment and distributions.  The result has been a previously unimaginable large budget for community projects.  We are now rather unique in the Michigan District and Kiwanis International in this enviable position.

The balance of the payment, approximately $2.5 million dollars, was received in 2002.  At that time, the Kiwanis Foundation changed its emphasis to being the evaluator and distributor of the proceeds and interest from the fund.  Each autumn, the Foundation accepts applications for grants for various projects from worthy agencies in the community.  The entire club meets to evaluate the applications and deems which should receive a grant and how much the grant should be.  The money is then distributed at a Club meeting with representatives of the recipient agencies present.  This system continues to work democratically and successfully.  Over the years, we have given away more than $1 million in interest from the principal of the Foundation.

The Kiwanis members continue to raise money through supported fund raising projects.  Many projects have found success with our club, but as our community changes so do the character of our projects.  Our holiday cheese sale, our fall peanut sale, an annual radio auction, the perpetual gumball project, and KRT laundry and antenna concessions have run for many years and have brought in much revenue for the club.  Those monies have been used for various community benefit projects.

In addition to fund raising project and funding for projects, our club volunteers many hours of work and hands-on assistance with various community projects and services. 

For many years, we participated in the Michigan Department of Transportation’s “Adopt a Highway” program.  We clean up debris and litter along a 2+ mile stretch of the US-223 bypass and are proud to keep our community looking clean.

An active committee of the Club has been the Community Pride Committee that continues to conceive and complete civic improvements in and around the city.  One highly visible and much appreciated civic improvement conceived and completed by the Community Pride Committee was the installation of a new flag pole at the top of the Lenawee County Court House along with the night lighting of the flag.  The pole was installed in 1992 and the flag can now be seen day and night from many locations around Adrian.

We have had many famous club individuals and personalities over the many years of our existence.  They helped make our club meetings more interesting and often exciting.  Those notable were Sid Siegel and Ed Kosmalski who entertained us as our song leaders for many years.  Tom Kansas who brought a new look to our weekly bulletin.  We have had many Bulletin Editors also, perhaps the longest running one being Harold Near in the 1950’s and 1960’s.  Club meetings were spiced with antics of Bob Mason, Dave Snyder, and Dave Wakefield.  Tom Nixon although not a member of the Kiwanis Club played the piano for years in exchange for a free lunch at the meeting.  David Siler has been the piano player for the past 35 years.  He still intends to take lessons someday.

For the first 50 years of club activities, the annual election of officers was taken more seriously.  There were actual elections held with more than one candidate and they made speeches to the club to get elected.  In recent years, the candidates have come from the Board of Directors and are elected more by their willingness to serve.  This is just one of several signs of change in our community over the years of our club.

Weekly Meeting Locations

Location of our weekly Wednesday luncheon has changed many times in our history.  The original meeting space was the Lenawee Hotel where the club charter night was held.  In the fifties and sixties, the club met at the Eagles on North Winter Street but in the early 1970’s met for a few years at the Moose Club.   We then moved the meeting to the Kiwanis Community Room of the YMCA where we stayed for about 20 years.  In that time, we made a concerted effort to grow the club from 75 members to 100 members since the meeting room could support that size.  The YMCA needed to create a Fitness Center and converted the purpose of the room thus forcing us to look for new quarters.

Beginning in January of 1994, we met at the Secret Garden, a hall in the downtown area of Adrian and while there considered the purchase of the old Odd Fellows Building that would have been our first self-owned and operated meeting space.  The club decided not to enter the hall business and soon the meeting location was moved to the Christian Family Center where we continue to meet.

The Club was initially a men’s organization but Kiwanis International eventually approved female membership.  Our club has been graced by many women members and several have served on significant committees and as Directors.  Pam Payne Fraley was our first woman president.

In 2013 we began to focus our purpose more clearly with an introspective self-analysis and critique process. We completed strategic planning to more clearly establish our goals and purposes. We created a club statement and goals as follows:

The Kiwanis Club of Adrian intentionally takes action to positively impact our community. We envision a club united in service, building a vibrant community, while preserving our heritage.

OUR GOAL: positively impact the Adrian Community by:

Supporting development for youth and families.

Supporting health, wellness and recreation.

Though we have different surroundings, our enthusiasm, purpose and goals remain the same, to best serve our community, to assist children and senior citizens, and to make the Adrian community a better place to live.

Kiwanis is a worldwide organization that is found on every continent and in nearly every country in the free world. We find strength in our numbers to bide with our original motto, “We Build” and more recently “Serving the Children of Our World”.