The flowers were bought, the food was ordered and everything was in place to give two members of staff at Sheffield’s General Cemetery the farewell they deserved after countless hours helping to keep the site beautiful.
But just 24 hours before members and volunteers gathered to pay their thanks to general manager Alex Quant and landscape organiser Sally Williams, the trust was left in an awkward situation for the best possible reason.
Hilary McAra, trustee of the Sheffield General Cemetery, said the trust secured enough funding to be able to keep the committed duo on for at least another two months.
Ms McAra said: “It got really down to the wire and then a grant application we put in came through just in time.
“We had organised this little party and it had been really difficult for Sally and Alex so we thought we would go ahead and have a party for them instead.”
The duo were told they would lose their jobs in May after the trust said funds had reached a ‘critical level’ and they needed to raise money to continue its work.
Ms McAra said: “We were having a general meeting and they had about ten days to go before they were actually going to be made redundant and the leaving party was on the Thursday and they were supposed to be leaving on the Friday.
“It was just great. They’re really hard working people and work far more hours than they are actually paid for.”
Ms McAra said the duo were ‘invaluable’ to the Sharrow park and the trust had gone through a restructure, which has also seen trustee Janet Ridler step down.
She added: “We need paid members of staff – it’s hugely important to the site because the volunteers can’t run it on their own.
“We’ve had a restructure and got some new volunteers too. We’re designing a new website and we are already renting the Samuel Worth chapel out for events.
“We plan to promote that more and more and then we can charge for that which help to keep us going in the long-run.”
Sheffield Council was awarded more than £3million of National Lottery funding for improvements at the site.
Works will see the site removed from Historic England’s Heritage At Risk register but council bosses downgraded proposals for a 13-bay car park to three disabled bays following objections from those living near the site.
The project is planned to start later in 2018 and will run up to winter 2022.
Ms McAra said: “People think that the cemetery has got all this money but the truth is the trust hasn’t got any of it and we still need to fundraise.
“The money the council has got is fantastic and we are going to work in partnership with them but we have still got our own job to do.”
The trust now has around 50 volunteers who help with tasks including gardening to litter picking and general maintenance of the site.
For more information or if you would like to volunteer or donate visit www.gencem.org