Practically a “full time volunteer,” Waterford Plantation resident Cathy Tourloukis has had more than a couple pats on the back recently.
Keep Horry County Beautiful put up a billboard in her honor on Gateway Drive, and the Carolina Forest Library named her volunteer of the year.
Retired from advertising sales in New York, Tourloukis says, “It makes me feel useful and happy to know I’m helping other people and the animals and the community, and I have the time. I’m retired and there are only so many books I can read.”
Tourloukis and her husband Louie, who’s originally from Greece, moved to the Grand Strand about six years ago – “It was 12/12/12,” she says – and lived in Surfside Beach until their Waterford home was ready.
That’s when she started volunteering at Coastal Animal Rescue in Murrells Inlet.
“When we moved here, I looked through the paper for volunteer opportunities and that was one of the first ones I saw,” she says.
At first, the couple walked the dogs, and then she started helping out with the cats also.
Eventually, she started volunteering at events such as local home shows when animals are brought in for adoption.
The animal lover, who has a 7-year-old German shepherd whose name is Dusty, also volunteers at Pet Smart at Coastal Grand Mall every month during their cat adoptions.
Tourloukis also gives her time to Beautify Carolina Forest, and adopted Gateway Drive where she picks up litter.
“I clean it up one day and then the next day…why do people toss litter out of their car?” she says. Convinced the culprits are locals, she says, “Why would tourists drive on Gateway Drive? It’s people who live here who’re doing this.”
Also a volunteer with the Horry County Democratic Party, she suggested her local group, the Carolina Forest Dems, adopt a road to clean up, and they’ve adopted Oakheart Road.
“Anyone can accept a road,” she says, explaining they need to make a two-year commitment to Keep Horry County Beautiful, but that commitment only involves picking up litter four times a year.
A cause very close to Tourloukis’ heart is Plastic Free Myrtle Beach, which includes a Facebook page that extends to the entire Grand Strand.
While she credits others who donated time to help her, the volunteer has been instrumental in almost single-handedly getting more than 300 restaurants to stop giving plastic straws to customers unless they are specifically requested.
“The idea was to make them aware, and most of them hung up signs telling people about it. Three hundred is a really big number,” she says, pleased with the accomplishment.
“I’m afraid we’re not even going to have drinking water,” she says. “People need to realize we have to do something about single-use plastic.”
Not using plastic straws is where anyone can start, she says.
“I don’t know what has to happen for people to realize what this is about.”
Vice president of the Friends of Carolina Forest Library, Tourloukis is at the library at least three or four days a week, volunteering in any of several areas.
One of those areas is The Book Nook, which sells new and used books.
“Where can you get a book for a quarter?” she asks, adding that the most expensive book is $1.
“Fiction takes you away to places you’ve never been, and non-fiction teaches you so much. We should always be learning and bettering ourselves,” she says.
“Cathy has graciously donated much time and effort to assisting with staffing The Book Nook, serving as the vice-president of the Friends group, helping with book sales, sorting donations, and donating recycled materials for many of our children’s crafts projects,” says librarian Kim Cantley. “She’s a strong advocate for public libraries and for the library staff, encouraging and supporting all of our efforts, even helping with promoting our many classes and activities to the public.”
“Libraries are about so much more than just reading books,” the volunteer says. “It’s a social outlet too, and every day there are two or three events. There are things for seniors, teenagers, veterans, teens, kids, everyone.”