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The 517 Living Community page has more than 34,000 members. Here's how it started.

Sarah Pierce
Posted at 12:34 PM, Oct 19, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-20 08:50:29-04

LANSING, Mich. — The 517 Living Community page has more than 34,000 members on Facebook.

Local businesses have come to rely on it, and community members check it daily. But how did it come to be?

The creator of the page, Lansing native Sarah Pierce, said it started because she was in a rut.

"Man, what was I doing? When I started 517 Living, I honestly, that time of my life, it's kind of a blur," she said. "I was looking for a richer life, like I was looking for better entertainment, more unique experiences, I wanted to connect with more uplifting people."

Pierce started a Twitter account where she retweeted any local events she found interesting.

"I started getting a following," she said. "Part of that was, you know, I was strategic about it. I would follow the right businesses and stuff. But when I got to about I think it was over 5,000, or close to 6,000, I was like, people are obviously very interested in finding out what's going on in the area. They're curious, too, just like me."

The 517 Living Twitter account snowballed into a website, community calendar and, ultimately, the Facebook page.

"Since I didn't have a whole lot of marketing money, I created the Facebook group for free and I added everybody and their brother and sister to it," said Pierce. "It grew and I made sure it grew fast."

That many followers could make Sarah an influencer of sorts. But it's not about clout or money to her.

"At the beginning, and even now, it was not about financial gain," she said. "It was really a lot of fun for me, and I could see that it was changing me as a person."

Brandon Navin is the executive director of The Artist's Umbrella in Lansing. He described the page as"a hub for all of us in 517 to come together and support one another."

Navin said his group has grown substantially from free advertising on the page and he's not alone.

"I had a guy come up to me who I recognized on social media, but I hadn't met him in person," said Pierce. "And he said, your group made me $100,000 last year and I was like, 'really?' But you know, people tell me that type of stuff."

With one 517 Living post, a couple at Sparrow Hospital was able to find an ordained minister to perform a wedding ceremony for them at the hospital.

With another post, a new East Lansing bakery was able to gain the customer base they needed to thrive during a pandemic.

And with another post, people from the Lansing community volunteered their resources to help welcome an Afghan refugee family to Lansing.

"I do think that the end goal of having these social media platforms is to really drive people out to connect with other people in real life," said Pierce.

What started as a Lansing woman looking to see what was going on in her community is now tens of thousands of Lansing neighbors helping and building each other up daily.

"When you start making an active effort to learn about your community, learn about the local businesses, spending your money locally, it kind of it changes you as a person," Pierce said.

She is now working with other Michigan cities to create their own version of the 517 Living community.

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