For over a decade, Joel Bigelow worked at Steel Technologies and would pass by the run down motel across the street, pondering the quality of life of the children he saw playing outside the building. This exact motel is notorious for housing low income families. After the Great Recession of 2009, Joel found himself yearning for more meaning in his life and to make an impact on others. The Lord placed a calling on his heart and a life changing idea was born. In 2015, Joel quit his long term job at Steel Technologies and with his wife, Jeannie, created a nonprofit organization called Endure Athletics. While it was originally named for the physical endurance needed in sports, the meaning has since then changed to reflect upon the courage and strength needed to undergo the challenges of life. Their mission statement is to enrich the lives of homeless children in Rutherford County and instruct them on how to break generational cycles of poverty. Bringing this vision to reality was no simple and easy task. The whole Bigelow family was taken out of their comfort zone physically, emotionally, and financially. In fact, they sold their home in order to live off the equity. They were forced to put all their trust and faith into the hands of the Lord. “We rely on God completely. I always tell people He takes me right to the cliff and I just look up ready for whatever is next. We have never gone without. We always have what we need.” Over the years, Joel developed a summer camp, after-school programs, and enrichment activities like Christian mentorship and sports games. Lighthouse Baptist Church and Steel Technologies generously contribute space to Endure Athletic’s activities. Since it was established in 2015, Joel has worked with over 100 homeless children, 65 of which are still currently in his care. One of the first students to ever be a part of Endure Athletics is now a hardworking junior at MTSU. With his three 12-passenger vans, Joel picks up the children and takes them to church, youth events, and activities within his own organization. He also has had the honor of baptizing five of the children, whose pictures hang in his office. The vision for Endure Athletics is for their own facility and to serve more homeless children in surrounding cities. Endure Athletics also has a podcast, that can be streamed on your favorite platform. They can also be found on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter at @endure_athletics. If you feel led to donate, you can give at endureathletics.org.
Article by Grace Libman
Photography by Angel Pardue
Originally published in Murfreesboro City Lifestyle