York Helping Hands meet HRH Prince Andrew

York Helping Hands meet HRH Prince Andrew

When Caroline Kimberling of the York First Ward heard that 687 homes and around 200 businesses had been flooded on Boxing Day, after one of the city's major flood defences had been lifted, she decided to do something about it. Along with a few non-member friends, Caroline gathered together badly needed items for the evacuees and the following day she and friend Helen Woodall went to deliver two car loads to a local collection centre.

Local volunteer Stefanie Finch had secured a very small hall to act as a collection point, but by Sunday when Caroline and Helen arrived, it was already full. Caroline called President Kimberling, Second Counsellor in the York Stake Presidency, to ask if the Church building could be used as a collection centre. Approval was given and work began.

A notice was put on Facebook announcing that the chapel would be open for donations, and the following day - Monday - contributions of food, cleaning materials, hygiene products and clothing from more than 300 visitors poured into the church cultural hall. In addition, many local and national businesses sent deliveries or food for volunteers working at the church.

After three days, the hall was bursting at the seams, and while Church leaders liaised with York City Council, volunteers from within and without the Church sorted, categorized and got everything ready for action. 'The response was heartwarming,' explained President Kimberling. 'Members and non-members worked side by side like old friends to alleviate some of the suffering.'

One volunteer wrote on Facebook: “Been down helping at the LDS church this afternoon. This has easily been the best part of my Christmas. Everyone willingly helping with a smile on their faces. Volunteers are here and have been all day; they will stay as long as they need to. I have never seen anything like it. Thank you to everyone who has helped here and anywhere else today. You are all legends! Proud to be from York...”

The flood victims were advised that they could return to their homes on Thursday, which brought a new set of challenges. Furniture and carpets needed removing, homes needed cleaning, care packages needed delivering. More than sixty volunteers from both The Church and the community donned Helping Hands vests and united to assist in the clean-up operation.

'There were touching, inspiring and humbling scenes as volunteers met victims,' said President Kimberling.  'They joined with other volunteers in the City and all worked together whilst making new friends along the way.'

Over the following few days, missionary couple Elder and Sister Culbert continued to work with local leaders to coordinate the relief effort. In all, Church volunteers happily donated around 3,000 hours of service.

Six members were later asked to represent the group when they met HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York. The Prince asked the group for details of what they had been doing and also if social media had played a role in the relief efforts. We all know it did.