By Shawn Nowlin
Jay Ezelle met his best friend Joy in August 2007 when he was studying at Columbia International University. In addition to a love of Christ, the two also quickly bonded over other shared interests such as fitness and helping the less fortunate.
If a time traveler had told Jay in 2007 that in 14 years, not only would he be happily married to Joy, but they would share four children, he certainly would not have been surprised. “It was pretty obvious early on that there was something special about her. I could not have asked for a better life partner,” he said.
While Jay is originally from South Carolina, Joy is from Troutville, Virginia. After graduating from Columbia International University, Jay furthered his education by studying Christian Leadership at Liberty University. After college, he accepted a youth pastor position in the Roanoke Valley before starting a career in law enforcement. Shortly thereafter, Joy was hired as a Special Education Coordinator at the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center.
Although he had a deep passion and greatly enjoyed working as a full-time law enforcement officer, Jay always dreamed of owning a gym and starting a non-profit. That aspiration became a reality on October 2 when E3 Fitness at 2646 West Main Street had its grand opening. Among those present were Jay’s parents who said they couldn’t be prouder of what their son has accomplished.
Open to all Roanoke Valley residents, inside the fitness center are jump ropes, dumbbells, stationary bikes and much more. If not quite at the rope-climbing level, movement modifications are available to everyone. “We firmly believe that as a society that if we take better care of our health, our health will lead to better mental health, because they are directly connected,” Jay said.
Added Joy, “As we see it, if we can help one adult or parent to better health and fitness, that may lead to more family dinners around the table, which has a plethora of benefits, but at the core, a more connected family unit, and that is what changes the community and the world.”
The Ezelle’s, both 32, say their previous places of employment prepared them for this endeavor. “Embracing people for their past, encouraging them in their today and equipping them for a better tomorrow is what propels us forward,” they said.
Community based fitness is only part of E3 Fitness’ mission. “The family of E3 Fitness knows that there will be opportunities often to actively serve the needy and homeless. As part of this family, though never mandated, we expect people to show up and be the hands and feet of Jesus alongside of us,” said Jay.
Explaining further, Joy continued, “Another way interested individuals can make a difference is to give a one-time gift or become a monthly contributor to our 501C3, the E3 Initiative, where funds are used to help further the vision and mission of the Initiative, serving both the needy and homeless.”
Jay and Joy, who moved to Salem in 2017, are the proud parents of Cohen, five, Hadley, four, and Tryce, one. In April, they are expecting their fourth child.
More information, including costs of classes and additional resources, can be found on their social media pages and at e3fitnesssalem.com.