AUBURN | Most people dedicate Saturday mornings to relaxing — to watching cartoons, reading the paper and lounging around in pajamas.

This past Saturday, 26 people instead exchanged sweat pants for work clothes and spent the morning volunteering at the American Red Cross of Cayuga County.

The small army of volunteers was made up of Prudential Financial Inc. employees and their families, all of whom spent Saturday participating in the 19th annual Prudential Global Volunteer Day.

Josh Sanders, a financial professional for Prudential's DeWitt office, said that when given an opportunity to pick a place to volunteer for the 2013 edition of Global Volunteer Day, the Red Cross quickly came to mind.

"The Red Cross is kind of near and dear to my heart," he said.

Sanders serves as president of the Cayuga County Red Cross board, and knew the organization fit into the parameters set by Prudential.

"We always look to local organizations that are impacting our community locally," he explained. "We do try to give back to our community."

Pamela Baker Gratton, manager of the Red Cross' Cayuga County branch, leaned against one of the suite's unpainted walls, smiling as she watched volunteers spruce up the Auburn office.

Considering 94 percent of the Red Cross' staff is made up of volunteers, Gratton said, she was pleased to welcome a few more — even temporarily — into the organization's ranks.

"It's wonderful," Gratton said. "Just to have a company come in and share a whole day with us is great."

The volunteers spent the first half of the morning assembling 100 comfort kits for the victims of future disasters, filling bright-white bags with soap, washcloths, toothbrushes, toothpaste and other hygienic supplies.

The second half of the morning was dedicated to what Gratton called the "general beautification" of the Auburn office.

Along with washing the Red Cross' windows and cleaning out the office's disaster relief trailer, the volunteers painted a thick, bright-red stripe along the bottom half of the office's walls — brightening the once-white suite with an organization-appropriate color.

Prudential wasn't the only organization that made Global Volunteer Day at the Red Cross possible.

Gratton said Walmart and Tops Friendly Markets gave gift cards, The Home Depot donated paint and a slew of local businesses contributed supplies for the comfort kits.

Although the volunteers dedicated the morning to work, fun was not sacrificed.

Some volunteers exchanged jokes while painting the organization's walls. Others chatted as they bagged up trash. And child-aged volunteers busied themselves by circling around an iPad.

Matt Champion, manager of financial services for the DeWitt Prudential, said he and his fellow volunteers were happy to dedicate a few weekend hours to helping the Red Cross — an organization dedicated to helping others.

"Easy decision, great organization," he said. "It's good to give back."

Staff writer Samantha House can be reached at (315) 282-2282 or Follow her on Twitter @Citizen_House.

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