From Dream to Reality: Building Community at Friendship Village

Betsie Neft left corporate America so she and her husband, Brad, could chase a dream of becoming park owners. She’ll straight up tell you she didn’t have all the answers about running a campground. But she had a vision: to make a place where the community could always drop by and feel right at home.

And that’s exactly what she did.

The Search Begins

Following a particularly tough time in Betsie’s life, she found solace in helping Brad look for a mobile home park. He’d wanted to own one for years, and Betsie, eager for a change, dove headfirst into the search. Despite looking up and down the East Coast, they found the perfect mobile home park back where they started—in their hometown of Bedford, Pennsylvania.

The catch? The park wasn’t for sale.

”I did some digging and found out who the owner of the property was,” Betsie recalled. “I wrote him a letter, then I followed up with a phone call.”

The timing couldn't have been any better. The owner planned to pass the park on to his son. However, his son had literally broken the news the night before that he intended to pursue a different path. That change of heart was the only reason the park owner entertained Betsie’s call. 

“It was all about the timing for him,” Betsie remembered. “It was a very long process. He wanted to get to know us well before he decided that we were the ones to buy the park. In the end, he thought it was meant to be.”

Unfortunately, the park staff and current residents were initially skeptical.

A Warm Welcome? Not Quite Yet

“I didn’t even know there was a campground here,” Betsie admitted. “I just knew they had a mobile home park.”

Once the previous owner showed Betsie around, that’s when she understood the full scope of what they were about to take on. 

“Owning a campground was never even in our mind,” Betsie confessed. “I knew nothing about camping. I’d never even camped.”

However, Betsie and Brad were undeterred and committed to learning. They purchased the property—campground and all—closing the deal just before Labor Day weekend.

With their new park, came lots of residents and a park full of campers, none of whom knew the park had been sold. In fact, it was a surprise to everyone; even the staff.

“It didn’t go over well,” Betsie shared. “The campers were definitely apprehensive at first because they didn’t know who we were. They were afraid we were going to change things and not in a good way.”

But Betsie and Brad resolved to win them over. The fact that nearly all of the staff stayed on was a huge boost to the camper’s confidence. They also slowly started refreshing the property, making it more inviting and appealing. 

Yet, it was their approachability that made the most significant difference.

“We were always out and about,” Betsie said. “We talked to everyone all the time. We’re very accessible; very hands-on. We go to all of our own activities. It makes for long days, but it’s a lot of fun.”

Their efforts went a long way toward building relationships—both inside and outside the park.

Creating a Village

Determined to knit their new park and their hometown together, Betsie and Brad threw themselves into organizing events that began to draw people from around town into the park. They brought in food trucks and continued the tradition of Saturday night gospel singing. They offered their warehouse space to a local non-profit so they could continue their philanthropic efforts.

They planned entire weekends with festive themes like Chocolate Lovers and Hawaiian Beach Party, along with hosting classic car shows, music festivals, and a farmer’s market. 

“The community is always invited. They’re always welcome,” Betsie emphasized. “This is a small town. We have about 3000 residents, and we will have 1500 here on any given weekend. Brad and I are from here, so we feel it’s our mission to be welcoming.”

And it’s a mission they’ve accomplished.

“We’ve had people tell us that this place is a little unique because people interact all the time here,” Betsie shared. “That’s one of the things that’s so different about Friendship Village. People talk to their neighbors. It’s friendly. It’s homey.”

For both campers and visitors, Friendship Village has become their home away from home—a sentiment Betsie cherishes deeply.

“This is a whole different world,” Betsie added. “I enjoy it every day. I never feel like I’m going to work. I’m just going to the village, and I’m always happy to go.”

A Little Help From a Friend

In creating such a community-centered environment, Betsie and Brad found an ally in CampLife. Their reservation system took a load off their shoulders, allowing them, along with their staff, to spend more time with their guests and neighbors—a partnership that’s become the cornerstone of their success.

“We are thrilled to be with CampLife,” Betsie said. “We are so happy with the way the reservation system is set up. Everything we put in is accurate. This is the best it's been, ever.”

At CampLife, we’re committed to helping you build those relationships by ensuring your reservation system works seamlessly, so you can focus on nurturing the community that defines your campground.

If you’re looking to simplify your operations with a system that understands your needs, reach out! Together, we can enhance your guest’s experience and keep them ready to book a return trip to their home away from home.

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