Thieves have ransacked a shop at Flamborough's lifeboat station, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake yet making off with tiny sums of cash stored in a safe overnight.
The charity, which operates a lifeboat crew offering round-the-clock rescue services at sea, is reliant on donations and the efforts of its volunteers.
Those at the site have spoken of their dismay at waking this morning to find the vital service had been targeted for the sake of small amounts of money.
"I'm appalled," said Capt David Freeman, lifeboat operations manager at the Flamborough RNLI. "We're here to save lives at sea. That's what we do.
"People are totally appalled by the fact that somebody has broken in.
"There's no respect left, for someone to do that. But they just don't seem to care."
Capt Freeman had been alerted to the break in shortly before 7am after the damage was spotted by a passing member of the public who had been walking their dog.
"Somebody managed to break down the door," he said. "We found the counter broken into pieces, bits of it strewn outside. The safe was gone, but fortunately there was nothing of any great value in it.
"There's no money left here overnight, only that in the till float. It's the damage to the door that will be the greatest cost, with mud and boot prints all over.
"To see the mess they've made of the door, it looks as if they've brought a bar in and tried to pry it open, and when that failed used brute strength. There was a small amount of money here, but certainly not worth the effort they've put in to get it."
Police were called to the scene early this morning and have been on site gathering evidence, Capt Freeman said. The community, he added, was already rallying together to help.
"A member of the public has just walked up and handed a £10 note to one of our members, for repairs to the door," he said.
"At the end of the day we're a charity - there's no Government funding to keep the job going. We don't have a lot of people, and we're all volunteers.
"But Flamborough is a close knit community. There is real support for what we do."