Is there anything more valuable than the smile on a child’s face when given its favourite toy?
The look in a father’s eyes, whose empty dinner table is all of a sudden adorned by a meal big enough to feed his family?
A mother’s joy, after having her nails painted for the first time in 40 years of her life as a Mother’s Day gift?
The gratefulness of a struggling pensioner whose electricity bills have just been paid?
For Jim and Neda Mangioros, at the helm of Endless Horizons Youth and Outreach Centre, these are just a few of the things that fulfil their life – that are their life.
In past 14 years, the couple has saved the lives of drug addicts, taken the children from parking lots and gangs under their wings, and even inspired troubled youth to become youth workers themselves.
Often, life takes us in directions we never thought we would go. And for Jim and Neda that rings far too close to home.
Born in a Greek family, Jim describes his teenage self as a ‘spoiled son of the furniture factory boss’, who could have gotten away with anything.
But as early as the age of 13, Jim had shown determination. Dyslexic and struggling to read and learn, he refused to be bullied and teased in school. He subscribed to the Herald Sun for four years, and would read the paper from front to back cover for three and a half hours each day, trying to formulate his words, to understand.
It was then that the now recognisable slogan of Endless Horizons was created – ‘Dream, Believe, Achieve’.
“I dreamed of where I wanted to be, I believed in myself and I achieved,” he tells Neos Kosmos.
Having succeeded in the stock market and property development in his early 20s, Jim had made a promise to himself to help those in need.
“I always said if I do well in life I want to give back to society, give back to people.”
He founded Endless Horizons, a non-profit organisation that since 1999 has been helping young people discover a vision of hope for their future and equipping them with the tools and confidence to realise that vision.
Endless Horizons has since helped thousands of those in need, from putting food on their table, to providing hygiene and toiletry items, clothes, and paying their rent and bills. But more importantly, it has provided mentoring and counselling service to vulnerable youth.
“It’s all about love. It’s nothing else. We’ve just got big hearts for giving,” Jim and Neda Mangioros tell Neos Kosmos.
“If we can get kids off the streets, mentor them, give them life and business skills, then my wife Neda and I can really help,” Jim says.
And both Jim and Neda can do so drawing from their personal life experiences. They both came from a troubled area, and have hit a brick wall in their life.
What saved them both was having good people and family behind them.
Now all their focus and energies are on developing Endless Horizons Kids Youth & Outreach Centre. The organisation is based in Campbellfield and covers 14 suburbs.
“Neda and I get to counsel and mentor a lot of young kids. We had kids from 11 years old, that stayed with us up to their 20s, and just seeing them walk through life, seeing them progress is amazing. These kids often don’t have a father figure – he may be in jail, addicted to drugs, so we are like role models,” Jim says.
“The kids that we see come from a lot of broken families, they live in commission homes, without furniture, or TV. They live day by day, without food on the table for a week sometimes.
“We live in such a blessed nation, and some of us are still struggling. That’s why we incorporated the outreach centre, where we get to feed them and clothe them for free, with the help of our sponsors who provide free clothes, shoes, food or their services.”
In situations where their children are struggling with drug addiction, it is often families that approach Jim and Neda to ask for the help of Endless Horizons.
“There are around 35 kids that we look after at the moment, but there are many families as well that come together through these doors. But we have a massive heart for young kids because we’ve both had a severe past and this is all through our life testimony and our life experiences that we came out of it. If they need help with school, driving lessons, to get out of drug circles we are there for them, but then you need to help parents as well. They have to come together as a family unit to solve the problem,” Neda explains.
“Looking after them is an ongoing process, for life – until we see there is a change. We let them know that we are there for them but we can’t control them or force them into anything. So when they have a hard time, when they hit rock bottom, they come to us. We are also affiliated with a couple of rehabilitation centres and they take over from there,” Jim says.
Being brought up in a Serbian family, Neda says she spent her teenage years as a rebellious teenager, trying to constantly explain herself. While everybody was going on holidays, or doing ballet and going to scout camps – she was at the Serbian school and church.
“I was trying to juggle it. I wanted to live an Australian way of life but I also wanted my Serbian heritage. There came a rebellious part of me, so I know what these kids are going through, where they are coming from and my heart goes out to them because I lived their life.
“You have to love them, you have to care for them and help them through. It’s OK to make wrong choices as long as you have good people around you
to help you get out of them. Once they come to a breaking point, they ask for help,” Neda explains.
In Jim and Neda’s eyes, and the eyes of all those who have approached the organisation, Endless Horizons is a safe place for troubled kids to hang out in, a place that can seriously change lives.
Paying testament to this are Rhys Gardener and Tyler Gardiner, both 20, who have been mentored by Jim over the past decade. As young boys and best friends in need of father figures, they found one in Jim.
Both Rhys and Tyler have seen their confidence and the quality of their lives increase exponentially and are now following career paths in social work to help others in this way.
Jim and Neda’s dreams for an Outreach centre are ambitious – with an in-house amusement area to feature bowling alleys, free arcade games, indoor sports, computer rooms, social workers, mentors, a commercial kitchen.
In the past their mentoring existed on a smaller scale, but they are now planning to expand to three more suburbs in different parts of Melbourne, in the hopes of inspiring and up-skilling at risk youth. They also have a plan to introduce Endless Horizons to other states.
For the property developer couple, their life has now become helping vulnerable youth and needy adults.
“This has become a full-time thing now – we’ve given up a lot of our careers, there are also a lot of sponsors who donate goods and services. They have a big heart for us; they trust us after so many years. We are out there, dedicating our lifestyle for this – instead of wining and dining in the evenings, we are here counselling, with kids crying on our shoulders.
“We’ve lived our lives, now as husband and wife we want to give back to society. We want to save marriages, to save kids. Some of the kids we had under our wing for years now are becoming youth workers. They are faces of our organisation,” Jim says.
And for the couple, the most important achievement of all is seeing their former protégés now giving back to society in the same way as Jim and Neda Mangioros.
“It is the most beautiful thing to see their way of thinking now has value to it and it’s not only about themselves.
“We are helping the next generation to learn values and that’s the main goal. If we can save one kid from suicide or put food on someone’s table, we are going to do it. Now we want them to give to another person as well, to take it further and see the value of it.”
To show your support for Endless Horizons, you can donate your time, goods, services or money. For more information visit www.endlesshorizons.org.au or contact Jim and Neda Mangioros on 0435 931 691.