George and Bennye Rice have lived in Mesquite since 1972 and have given thousands of hours of their time by volunteering in their community.

You’d best prepare yourself for a fight if you ever approach George or Bennye Rice about slowing down when it comes to their many volunteer contributions to the community.

When asked about the possibility of scaling back, George is quick with a reply: “I am 78 years old and as long as I can keep moving, I will be volunteering.”

His wife of 57 years is a bit more passionate, answering with a resounding “No!” – with an emphasis on the exclamation point. Multiple explanation points to be exact.

Those are understandable feelings for a couple who together have given more than 77,000 volunteer hours to the community since the City’s Volunteer Services Department began keeping track of those numbers. According to Yolanda Wilson, the manager of Neighborhood Vitality, George has amassed more than 33,000 volunteer hours and Bennye has an astounding 44,000-plus hours over the past decade.

“George and Bennye Rice are two wonderful gems of our community,” Wilson said. “Their kindness through volunteerism is amazing as there’s nothing too big or too small that they are not willing to do.”

It’s not surprising that the couple has chosen to give to their community in a combined effort.

“[We’re] a team and we do just about everything together,” George said.

Both come from a law enforcement background. George began a long career with the Mesquite Police Department in 1972 and is now retired. Bennye began a 25-year career working for the Texas Department of Public Safety in 1974 before retiring in 1999.

The Rices have lived in Mesquite since 1972 and both agree about their initial motivation to become more involved in the community through volunteering with Bennye saying that it was a way to give back to the city and her church (First United Methodist Church of Mesquite) but adding, “[It was a way] to occupy my time because I do not like to sit and do nothing.”

George echoes his wife’s thoughts on not sitting around and keeping busy and adds that both he and Bennye certainly get something in return.

“It’s rewarding – the satisfaction that I have helped someone and to make Mesquite a better place to live,” George said.

Longtime friend and former city councilman Greg Noschese perhaps sums up the Rices better than anyone.

“George and Bennye model how to be community-minded citizens,” Noschese said. “They raised their family here, they worked here, they worship here and they retired here. Then they really began working here – giving tirelessly to the community by volunteering at nearly every opportunity. They are constantly on the go giving back and reinvesting in the community. It is amazing to witness and our community should be grateful for their continued contribution of time and service.”

City Manager Cliff Keheley cites the couple as great examples of giving back to their community.

“George and Bennye Rice are exceptional citizens and volunteers,” Keheley said. “ They have dedicated much of their lives to improving our community through various volunteer roles. From the Rodeo Parade to the Mesquite Fire Corps to Star Transit to serving on citizen boards, they have logged thousands of hours in service to Mesquite. I am glad to know them as citizens and friends.”

George said volunteering – no matter the who, what, when or where of it – gives ordinary (or probably more fitting, extraordinary) people the chance to be involved in their city.

“Volunteering is something each person has to decide on,” he said. “There are many organizations in Mesquite that need help and you can make a difference. And at the end of the day, it is rewarding.”

Both George and Bennye volunteer at their church and are members of the Mesquite Fire Corps. Other volunteer work they participate in either together or separately includes the annual rodeo parade, Keep Mesquite Beautiful, City of Mesquite 4B Quality of Life Corp. board of directors, the Parks and Recreation Department, Mesquite code ambassador, Mesquite RACE, the Mesquite Police Department’s Explorer program, Texas Crime Prevention Association, the Mesquite Board of Adjustments, the Mesquite Rotary Club Rodeo Road Rally Bike Ride and many more.

And despite their busy schedule helping in the community, George and Bennye still make time for pursuing some of the luxuries of retirement such as road trips, cruises and geocaching. In fact, George said the two have found geocaches in all 254 counties in Texas, every state in the country and in several foreign countries.

Both say their favorite volunteer activity is the Mesquite Fire Corps because it provides the opportunity to serve Mesquite fire – and police – personnel at major incidents. George currently serves as vice president of the Mesquite Fire Corps.

But community groups aren’t the only ones who benefit from the generous donations of time by people like George and Bennye. According to Wilson, the City of Mesquite saves roughly $1.8 million dollars a year based on the annual part-time or contract employee at a cost of $29,170 per year in comparison to a volunteer who assists with various city related tasks.

“It’s imperative that residents volunteer with the City of Mesquite,” Wilson said. “It not only allows opportunities to learn more about city services, it helps to efficiently coordinate resources. It creates transparency where it provides residents a closer look at how services are delivered as well as the cost savings in the day-to-day operations.”

Wilson said that there has been a temporary moratorium on accepting volunteer applications since last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic but added that city officials continue to monitor the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, as well as the county and state guidelines, and they hope to change that status soon.

More information on volunteer opportunities in Mesquite is available online.

Kent Miller is a Mesquite native with three decades of newspaper experience. His passion for community journalism is reflected in his work on Make It Mesquite. He also produces editorial content for the City of Mesquite through Pegasus Media Dallas.