Pat Krebs is a connector, an organizer, a warrior. Krebs’ focus, her current mission, is to promote the prosperity of the village of Campbelltown.
Through that persuasive nature, Krebs has enlisted a Palmyra High School broadcast journalism class to help her in her advocacy.
Campbelltown, a village of more than 4,000 registered voters, is located in South Londonderry Township, on the most western portion of Lebanon County’s border with Dauphin County. While a 1.5-mile stretch of Route 322—Horseshoe Pike—serves as its main street, Campbelltown is so much more than Palmyra’s or Hershey’s, or even Annville’s younger sibling.
“Here’s the problem,” said Krebs, who’s very active with the Campbelltown Community Alliance. “Most people don’t want to go to the Campbelltown post office. They want to get their mail delivered. Most people who live here have a Palmyra address and they don’t know they live in Campbelltown. It’s something CCA is attempting to overcome. The village of Campbelltown is very welcoming.”
Krebs said CCA’s goal is to make the village a caring, walkable community.
“Many people drive by and don’t know what’s here,” she said. “Another goal is to come up with a way for people who live in Campbelltown to know it and to have a sense of pride in it. The welcome signs we presently have up don’t reflect pride. We’d love to get that taken care of as soon as possible.”
Through a chance encounter at a recent Palmyra Area Business Association meeting, Krebs indirectly connected with Palmyra High School broadcast journalism teacher Susan Stroh. Palmyra High School principal Dr. Scott Richardson, who was in attendance at that meeting, heard Krebs’ message of promoting Campbelltown and relayed it to Stroh.
Stroh contacted Krebs, who laid the ground work for the broadcast journalism class’ video presentation Voices of Campbelltown: A Glimpse into the Past. The class’ students interviewed members of the Campbelltown community and local historians with knowledge of the village’s unique history for the documentary.
“I was desperately looking for a freebie,” said Krebs. “I had identified people who could share their messages about Campbelltown, but I didn’t have a way to get it out there. The principal who was there said, ‘Perhaps I could have our journalism students do it.’ The next thing I knew I heard from their journalism teacher and they were on board.”
A viewing of Voices of Campbelltown: A Glimpse into the Past had been scheduled for Saturday, April 25th at 1 p.m.at the Music Academy in Campbelltown, but the event has been postponed until further notice. The students were juniors this school year though, and Krebs expects the presentation to be reschedule once that’s possible.
“We were very, very fortunate that they were willing to do this, and that they were as enthusiastic as they are,” added Krebs. “It was now in the capable hands of these students and their instructor. It’s theirs. That’s why it’s so important for them to get the credit.”
In many ways, Campbelltown is an overgrown version of the villages that dot the Lebanon County landscape, places like Reistville, Buffalo Springs, Lickdale, Hamlin, Camp Strauss, Colebrook, Rexmont, Avon, Hebron, Mount Zion, Freeport Mills, just to name a few. Each has its own identity and unique past, and they’re populated with hard-working, friendly people.
“Lots of small communities struggle to have an identity,” said Krebs, a former history teacher and state legislator from Butler County. “I’m passionate about Lebanon County because I think it has an abundance of agriculture, open areas, game lands, history and different cultures. Living in Campbelltown has made me realize this community can be more of a community. We can bring visitors here.
“We have agriculture preservation on the east end, and on the west end we have the Milton Hershey School,” Krebs continued. “On the south side, we have a farmer who preserved his farm. It will help keep our village attractive into the future. We have so many good things that are happening, and that are going to keep happening into the future. It’s all good, we just know we can be better.”
Campbelltown was founded in 1759, partly because it was a stop on a main trolley thoroughfare connecting Philadelphia with Harrisburg. Campbelltown existed before Palmyra and Hershey, but as those communities developed, they came to overshadow Campbelltown.
“We were an important community for farm families in the area,” said Krebs. “There were shops, a bakery and a potato chip factory. It was a really vibrant community, but it got lost. It was all farm land. There are so many interesting things about this town that people don’t know. This is a lively place, and it will be livelier.
Krebs said she’s lived in the village for 20 years.
“I recognize that a community that’s organized can be effective,” she said. “Clearly, we want to bring visitors to Campbelltown. We want visitors to realize they’re not in Hershey. We were on the map way before Palmyra and way before Hershey. History is important because it enables us to learn from the past and learn from the people who created the past.”
As times have changed, so has Campbelltown.
Some of the businesses that line Horseshoe Pike have remained true to their origins. Others have been re-purposed by new owners. But one would be hard-pressed to identify any place in Lebanon County that hosts more small businesses in any one specific 1.5-mile stretch.
“There are people who just loved to grow up here,” said Krebs. “There was something very special about how the people cared about each other. There are some things we don’t want to forget. Is it possible to get the several thousand people who live in Campbelltown to care again?”
Krebs’ hope is to match the attractiveness of the communities that surround Campbelltown.
“A lot of businesses have come here in the last four years,” continued Krebs. “A lot of businesses have been here. I take it personally. I think we’ve missed opportunities over time. Whatever I can do over the next year-and-a-half, I want to do.”
What’s fascinating about Krebs is that she is so passionate about a village in which she has only resided in for 20 short years. If one didn’t know better, he or she would swear that she is a Campbelltown native.
“I’m an active advocate. That’s my modus operandi. I try to be an enabler and help people who have dreams carry them out. I try to bring people together,” said Krebs. “I want people to know there really is a village of Campbelltown, with a long history, It’s a very important place in our county, for people to live and visit. I’m passionate about a village that deserves to be well-known.”
And hopefully, Campbelltown will never become lost again.
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