Knights organize statewide disaster response training programs

By Greg Patin
The Mississippi Jurisdiction of the Knights of Columbus has appointed three members to coordinate Knights’ response to natural and man-made disasters. The Knights have long responded to disasters and partnered with organizations such as Catholic Charities and individual parishes. However, the national organization is placing an emphasis on training and appropriate structures for volunteering during times of disaster.
In Mississippi, the Knights have chosen to partner with Volunteer Mississippi and assist in the operation of Volunteer Reception Centers (VRC). The Knights are training teams to manage VRCs, where volunteers will report to sign up to help in times of disaster.
Jerry Schmuck of Council 12271 in Gulfport is a past State Deputy and is currently the State Disaster Response Director. Schmuck is a retired Seabee Master Chief Petty Officer (E-9) and has extensive training in disasters of all kinds. His first natural disaster involvement was with Hurricane Camille in 1969. From then until he retired from active duty in 1994, he has worked in every facet of recovery efforts from crew member to operations manager. When the Knights of Columbus Supreme Council established a National Disaster Response Program, Schmuck volunteered to assist in any way possible. He feels very strongly that by working together Mississippi Knights can make a big difference when assisting with recovery efforts in our state.
As a member of Council 15131, St. Richard Parish, I am assisting Schmuck in the Diocese of Jackson. Having more than six years experience in disaster preparedness and response, I served as Incident Commander for the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston while working for Catholic Charities in Houston and led Catholic Charities recovery program which repaired more than 350 homes in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Allison where I trained parish staff and parishioners in disaster preparedness and response and also served as the director of regional disaster response for the seven Catholic dioceses in Louisiana.
Brent Woodfill is the Biloxi Diocese Regional Disaster Response director. Woodfill, a member of Council 1522 in Waveland, has more than seven years of disaster response experience. He has National Incident Management System training and served as the Incident Commander for the U.S. Postal response team in Mankato, Mn.
After retiring from the Postal Service, Woodfill moved to Waveland in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and served as the volunteer coordinator for St. Clare Recovery. He also gained case-management experience in disaster response through his work experience with Catholic Social Services and the Hancock Resource Center.
Woodfill has taught several Red Cross training programs, including mass care, disaster response and assessment and shelter operations. He is looking forward to using his experience and training and in helping his brother knights to become assets to the community in any incident(s) to which they are called.