Jeff Truax is a Salem County Hero

On the day New Jersey mandated a lock-down mode due to the Coronavirus pandemic, Jeff Truax sprang to action knowing that the Mid-Atlantic States Food Distribution Program would be an essential resource to thousands throughout South Jersey, and most particularly, in Salem County.

In early 2020, Mid-Atlantic States Career and Education Center under the leadership of Jeff, operated a food distribution program at its Training Center at 375 S. Broadway in Pennsville, once a week serving seniors and others lacking food security in Salem and Gloucester counties.

When the pandemic hit, Jeff responded quickly, beginning a daily food distribution immediately, leveraging our partners’ contributions with a few new resources to acquire literally tons of nutritious food on a weekly basis. Jeff redesigned the packaging and distribution process immediately to adhere to CDC Guidelines. He led the devoted staff and volunteers into a seemingly seamless transition from serving hundreds per week to thousands per week – all while maintaining the health and safety of everyone involved. Today, Mid-Atlantic States continues to provide food to more than a thousand families per week; sometimes the line for pickup at the Pennsville site has stretched for two miles. In July, Mid-Atlantic States’ Food Distribution Program has given away 268,400 pounds of food for 223,667 meals for 8,091 families.

Simultaneously to this expanded distribution, Mid-Atlantic was approached by the Veteran’s Hospital in Wilmington Delaware to provide food baskets to shut-in disabled veterans in several Southern New Jersey counties. Due to the nature of being isolated over long distances these baskets must be delivered directly to the door of the veterans. Rather than saying NO, our staff, once again under Jeff’s attentive guidance and leadership, sprang into action and we now deliver what we call “Meals of Honor” to more than 50 disabled veterans per week.

In addition, Salem County seniors who participated in the Salem County Office on Aging’s Congregate Nutrition Program administered by Mid-Atlantic States, were no longer able to gather, thus missing out on hot meals. Jeff worked out the logistics that now allow these seniors, who are most vulnerable to the virus, to receive food baskets delivered to their door on a regular basis.

While we commend and support all food pantries and distribution sites within Salem County which have stepped up to support the community, we believe that Jeff Truax deserves special accolades for going way above and beyond – working beyond 9 to 5 and many times dipping into his own pockets to provide needed food and supplies – to make sure the people of Salem County can put food on their family’s tables.

Jeff, supported by Mid-Atlantic States Career and Education Center, had the courage to immediately ramp up  operations to giveaway enormous quantities of food, expanding from a few hundred pounds of food a week to tons of food a week without any guarantee of financial resources.

Most important of all is how Jeff leads the staff and volunteers – many times though extreme heat or pouring rain – to show great caring and empathy for people in need at significant personal cost and without reservation. He encourages them to give their best graciously and selflessly. Jeff’s infectious positive attitude is also a welcome relief for the many people receiving food. He’s not just handing them a bag of food; he’s giving them a smile, a bit of support, a ray of hope during this very trying time that our entire country is enduring.

Webster’s defines Heroes as having great courage in the face of adversity but here is more than courage involved. There is also empathy, caring, understanding, a big heart, perseverance, self-sacrifice, and a strong desire to overcome barriers that might stop meeting urgent needs. Jeff Truax has exhibited this definition in an amazing way, and as long as the need is there, Jeff will be there as well.

Jeff lives in Pennsville with his wife Michele and their two daughters Shelby and Kimberly.