Sept. 30 2009 12:00 AM

Neighbors host tourists for cause



When newlyweds Wayne and Laura Kazmer bought their Westside Lansing home at 1817 W. Hillsdale St., last March, they were told it was built and lived in by former Lansing businessman Frank Arbaugh, of Arbaugh Department Store fame; the longtime downtown retail store on Washington Avenue occupied one of the largest buildings in Lansing.

But the home’s history had little to do with why they moved in. "We just fell in love with it, even though we thought it was probably too much money," said Laura Kazmer, 56, an employability skills trainer with Michigan Works and the Eaton Intermediate School District. “We walked in and said, ’Wow, this is us.’"

This weekend, the couple will open their doors for the 15th Annual Westside Home Tour, organized by the Westside Neighborhood Association and Advent House Ministries. The tour benefits Advent House, a multi-denominational partnership of local religious groups working to help the homeless and low-income residents.

Susan Cancro, Advent House’s director for the last 15 years and a Westside resident, said the services the organization provides are needed now more than ever.

“It’s hard when you look at all the negativism around us. You have to stand aside and see what else is going on, what positive things are going on."

To Cancro, the home tour is one of those positive things. "It’s a sign of our resilience — that people are willing to open their doors to us in these tough times," she said.

The Kazmer’s Colonial Revival style house, complete with a front doorway anchored by pilaster columns and crowned with a pediment bearing a coat of arms, was recently improved before the couple moved in. Remodeling efforts included a new roof, windows and other upgrades.

Tourists will see the Kazmer’s personal touches to the home, beginning in the dining room with their live-in mannequin, Ginger (who was sporting Laura Kazmer’s s Steely Dan T-shirt during this reporter’s visit). Wayne Kazmer, 60, is a lifelong musician who has opened for big name acts, includ ing as Sunny and Cher and Bob Seger. He found the mannequin in an Owosso store undergoing liquidation and thought it would be pretty cool to own. Twenty dollars later, he had himself a creepy Halloween prop and general conversation piece.

Laura Kazmer uses a guestroom upstairs as her own personal dressing room, and Wayne has his own "apartment" in the basement, which doubles as a music studio. Down there, he opens a closet, revealing a novelty skeleton. "How many people will tell you they have a skeleton in their closet?" he asked.

The dining room leads to a three-season room, which links the home to a cozy but lush backyard, landscaped with field stones and a few small flower gardens. In this neighborhood, well kept yards are a point of pride.

"Yards are very well taken care of around here," Laura Kazmer said. "We come home after walks and say we need to plant more."

A neighbor recently told the couple to snip some flowers the next time they walked by, saying it would give them something beautiful and help his garden grow.

When approached to be a tour home, the Kazmer’s had no hesitation. "We support it 110 percent," Laura Kazmer said.

Plus, the chance to show off their beautiful new home was a bonus. "It’s kind of an honor to be on the tour, to be honest," Wayne Kazmer said. "We’ve been bragging about it."

15th Annual Westside Home Tour

p.m. – 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 4 Advance tickets are $15 and available at
The Mole Hole (Okemos), Robert’s Wallpaper and Paint (S. Lansing),
Robert’s Wallpaper and Paint (Grand Ledge), Robert’s Wallpaper and
Paint (East Lansing), and the Westside Biggby’s (Lansing)