Donor Profile

In 1940, one year after the Kiwanis International Foundation was established as a legal entity, Walter Zeller (top right) made the first donation: 25 Canadian silver dollars that he hoped would turn into the foundation's nest egg.

This donor's dream came true. Auctioned for US$625, his coins launched the Kiwanis International Foundation's worldwide service efforts. Thousands of donors later, the foundation has grown into a multi-million dollar organization that awards grants to Kiwanis clubs and underwrites life-altering worldwide service projects.

A native of Waterloo County (near the city of Kitchener, Ontario), Zeller was the founder of Zellers chain of thrift stores. He began his business career in 1912 with a job as a stock boy with the F.W. Woolworth Company, and was later the General Sales Manager for the Metropolitan chain of stores for New York. He was considered by co-workers to be energetic, forthright, and magnetic, and served as director-at-large of the National War Savings Committee and a special advisor to the chairman of the Wartime Prices and Trade Board.

Zeller gave much of his life to philanthropy, serving as the Montreal Director of the YMCA and staying involved in many capacities with his Kiwanis club. He served as the Montreal President and Governor of the Ontario-Quebec-Maritime District.

On behalf of The Eliminate Project, we are proud to honor Walter Zeller's commitment to service by creating the Walter Zeller Fellowship. This is a very special opportunity designed exclusively for The Eliminate Project. You can become a Walter Zeller Fellow by making a one-time gift or two-year consecutive pledge of US$1,250 to The Eliminate Project. All Walter Zeller Fellows will receive a special medallion, lapel pin and certificate. We encourage you to join us to honor Walter Zeller by supporting The Eliminate Project as a Walter Zeller Fellow.

Photo (below): After three years in the talking, the Kiwanis International Foundation kicked off its fundraising in style during a January 1940 Detroit, Michigan, blizzard at Kiwanis’ 25th anniversary celebration. Past Ontario-Quebec-Maritime District Governor Walter Zeller (far left in cake photo) took the lead, donating 25 Canadian silver dollars, which decorated the gala’s birthday cake. The coins were auctioned to raise a nest egg for the new foundation. Rather than being served to guests, the five-tiered cake was cut up and delivered to Detroit-area orphanages.

Donor Profiles


Hometown: Waterloo County near the city of Kitchener, Ontario

Humble beginnings: Stock boy at F.W. Woolworth Company in 1912

Kiwanis career: Montreal president and governor of the Quebec-Ontario-Maritime District

Initial donation: Donated 25 Canadian silver dollars to build the Kiwanis International Foundation’s nest egg in 1940.

Zeller math: CAN$25 in coins were auctioned for US$625 to launch the Kiwanis International Foundation’s worldwide service efforts.

In recognition: The Walter Zeller Fellowship for The Eliminate Project (a pledge of US$1,250) - special medallion, lapel pin and certificate.