HOUSTON, Texas (Christian Examiner) -- While stampedes of shoppers searching for doorbusters and deals hit stores next Friday, some Houston area residents will shelf consumerism and opt to volunteer across the Bayou City participating in numerous activities from delivering cookies to passing out produce and helping the city's homeless.
Since 2010, a number of Houston churches have provided an alternative to Black Friday shopping called "Bless Friday" where participants can join community service projects in lieu of shopping.
"We'd like to change the way America observes Christmas," said Bless Friday founder Chuck Fox.
A Houston business owner and oilman, Fox, launched Bless Friday to provide a "constructive, counter-culture" way to shift the focus of Christmas season away from consumeristic ideals.
"People have been increasingly unhappy with the over commercialization of Christmas for years," Fox told the Christian Examiner. "The are shaking their heads at black friday and the violence that increasingly occurs as doors open at stores," Fox said.
"We believe that if you start the Christmas season with service, it will put the love of christ in your heart and change Christmas."
One of the more visible projects orchestrated by the organization will occur at the west Houston CITYCENTRE, a mixed-use development that provides retail shopping and upscale housing among other amenities. Last year some drove up to 60 miles to the CITYCENTRE to assemble bags for the homeless.
In addition to giving bags filled with non-perishable food items and toiletries to the needy, shoppers passing by are invited to take bags to distribute at a later time. According to the Coalition for the Homeless, in 2014 Houston's homeless population exceeded 5,000 persons including roughly 3,0000 individuals who live in sheltered facilities.
This year Bless Friday is also extending its reach to the Pacific Coast where parishioners from Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church in Seattle, Washington will join the Blessed Friday movement by helping the homeless at the St. Vincent de Paul of Seattle food bank.
Other activities scheduled for this year include projects at Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church, Beacon of Light Christian Center, St. John the Divine Episcopal Church, St. Francis Episcopal Church, West University Baptist Church, Crosspoint Church, and The Woodlands Community Presbyterian Church.
To those outside the Houston area, Fox, says "The great thing about Bless Friday is that you don't need to participate in these planned activities. Any individual, family or group can identify a need and begin their Christmas season with service."
For a full list of service opportunities or to learn more about how your orginzation can partner with Bless Friday, visit its website or email firstname.lastname@example.org