Lee Pennington wrote a book on acting, but the thinks DHS wrote the book on caring.
Pennington is a Community-Based Alternatives client living in Kingsland. He lived and worked in Hollywood for more than 20 years before his health made him move home to Texas and recuperate.
“When I came back from California, I had quite a bit of money and built a home for my wife and children out here in the country,” he said. “Later, the places where my body had taken such a beating for all those years came to the fore and I started having a lot of physical problems.
A divorce left Pennington at loose ends. “I didn’t really know exactly what to do,” so he called DHS. His caseworkers “put their arms around me and they were just wonderful,” he said. “Without them I don’t know what I would have done.
Pennington is a native Texan – born in Big Spring in 1941. In 1960, he “went out to Los Angeles to become a movie star.”
His first movie was “Pork Chop Hill,” with Gregory Peck. This was followed by 27 more, plus a number of television shows. He was also a drama coach. “I taught a lot of the big-name actors there,” he said. One of them was Elvis Presley. “I was his drama coach for four years – the only drama coach he ever had.” Mining his experience, he wrote the book, “The Actor’s Edge.”
Today, Pennington lives alone and counts on DHS to help him where he can’t help himself.
“I have nurse who comes by once a week and fills my pillboxes. And DHS provided some heaters last winter when I was freezing, and this summer they provided an air conditioner when I was burning up.”
Pennington is convinced that helping others is much more than a paycheck for DHS employees. “They live it – it’s their life.
“They’re providing more than a service – they’re providing themselves to me,” Pennington said. “I don’t have the right words to tell you what they mean to me. Words don’t do them justice. They’re my heroes; they’re my family. I don’t know what I’d do without them.”
This article originally appeared in Texas Department of Human Services 2001 annual report