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Young family finds a new life in Marion

Staff writer

George and Amanda Hotchkiss were just ordinary people when they got in trouble with the law. They had a family and were struggling to make ends meet.

Unable to resist the lure of easy money, they joined friends in stealing items such as old radiators and batteries from abandoned farmsteads and selling them to scrap metal dealers.

They were caught, and each was sentenced to two months in jail, served consecutively.

George Hotchkiss got out of jail two years ago on Christmas Eve. Amanda spent January and February 2008 behind bars.

The couple moved to Marion from western Kansas in June 2008 in hopes of beginning a new life.

“We moved here to get away and start over,” Amanda said. “We have a family and wanted what everyone else wants for their kids.”

They were placed under the supervision of Jo Olsen, Marion County Community Corrections Officer.

“Jo has been really good,” Amanda said. “She is awesome. If we have a problem, she tries to help us.”

Olsen helped them plan a budget. They enrolled in a parenting class she taught.

“We got a lot out of that,” Amanda said.

The couple is taking another class designed for felony offenders. The goal is to help them understand why they did what they did and how to avoid the situation again.

“It helps us make better choices,” Amanda said. “And now we know we aren’t the only two people in this situation.”

Both of them have jobs. George works for Hett Construction.

“Dave has helped us out a lot,” George said. “He invited us to church and now we attend church at Aulne.”

It was more difficult for Amanda to find a job. She said whenever prospects looked bright, she had to inform the potential employer about her felony record, and she was turned away.

She has been working the past three weeks at Pizza Hut in Marion.

Both will be under community corrections supervision for another year. They are working at completing required community service hours.

George reports to Olsen once a month. Amanda reports every two weeks.

They look forward to those times with Olsen, they said, because it gives them a chance to talk to someone who understands and is there to help.

They also make monthly payments on fines that were levied against them after their offense.

Amanda said she wishes people were not so judgmental, although she acknowledges she sometimes may perceive them to be judgmental when they really are not.

“I wish everyone would understand that what we did is not who we are,” she said.

Amanda has three children whom George treats as his own. Sage, 10, is a fifth-grader at Marion Elementary School. Her sister, Mercedes, 7, is a second-grader. Their brother, Kaden, is 3 years old.

The most difficult aspect about the experience for the whole family was the time George and Amanda spent in jail.

“It sucked,” George said. “You can’t do nothing but sit there and look outside. I don’t want to ever do that again.”

“It woke us up to what we needed to do,” Amanda said. “When you’re in there it seems like forever. The hardest part was being away from George and the kids.”

They believe the experience has helped their children, especially Sage and Mercedes, to realize the importance of avoiding illegal activities in their own lives.

“Sage saw what happened, and she already knows what she never wants to do,” Amanda said. “She saw it firsthand.”

The family enjoys living in Marion. George’s mother and stepfather live in Marion and sometimes keep the kids.

About two weeks ago, the family moved to a roomy, four-bedroom house at 1315 E. Main, Marion. They love the location because it is close to school, the swimming pool, and their jobs.

The couple does not rely on public assistance. They do everything they can to support their family.

“The kids don’t always get the things they want, but we make sure they have what they need,” Amanda said. “As long as we are together, that’s all we need to be happy.”

Last modified Dec. 17, 2009

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