The Florida Kiwanis Foundation was created in 1971 when then Florida District Governor J. Walker Field suggested this was a necessary thing to provide backing for his beloved Key Clubs. He turned to a few stalwart Kiwanians with the task of forming the Foundation. He insisted that Ralph Davis be the driving force behind the formation and appointed him president until the foundation was approved by Kiwanis International, incorporated, and bylaws established that would provide for elected officers. District secretary Hal Wainwright acted as appointed secretary of the newly formed foundation. John P. Nelson would become the first treasurer while Robert W. Thal and Delbert H. Noel would server as vice presidents.
Meeting at the Hotel Robert Myer, in Jacksonville, on March 19, 1971, the officers approved the documents that had been submitted to Kiwanis International and the State of Florida and taking into account the recommended alterations and amendments. The amended documents were subsequently filed and the State of Florida issued a certificate of incorporation on April 27th, 1971. The very same day, the formal agreement (which required the incorporation) with Kiwanis International was signed and notarized and sent off along with the first writing of the bylaws. The bylaws were approved by International on May 3, 1971. Florida Kiwanis Foundation, Inc. was in business.
Ralph Davis served as the foundation’s first president until formal elections could be held for his successor. The District Convention seemed like the perfect time to hold elections. Since few people knew of the existence of the foundation, J. Walker Field let it be known that he wanted to serve as president once his year as governor was over. His wish was granted and he became the first elected president of the foundation in September 1972.
Perhaps the hardest working of all was Robert W. Thal. He served as vice president for two years and was the mind behind the organization and development and chief fund raiser. He became the second elected president in September 1973 as the foundation was taking its first major steps. He believed that a ceremonial one year term was not beneficial to the development of the foundation until it was firmly established. He served for two years as president and personally assured the economic soundness of the foundation. One of the original trustees, George “Rocky” Shearouse, took over the office next. By the end of1977, the Foundation was firmly established and growing. One of the strengths was the commitment to the cause of the founders. The founders did not just server a term and then sit idly by. The stayed involved with the foundation, recruiting professionals who also shared their ideals. Ralph Davis knew of such a man from his home club and recruited Howard Carraway to serve as president – and he did for two years.
The Foundation has been served by many top quality Kiwanians, many of whom have also been Governors. Today, the strength and diversity of the Foundation eclipses its humble beginnings. We have made giant strides forward in an effort to establish permanency to the development and continuity of our youth leadership programs.