A longtime member of law enforcement in central Vermont will be honored for his professionalism and kindness this weekend. Community members in Chelsea are hailing Russ Hotchkiss as their citizen of the year.
"I'm supposed to say that I'm really humble, and don't deserve it, and all these things, but I have to tell you, I'm popping buttons proud that they picked me," Hotchkiss beamed.
Hothckiss is a former police officer in the city of Barre, an EMT, an assistant judge in Orange County, and is now a part-time sheriff's deputy in Washington County.
What made him a standout, a community organizer with the Chelsea Grange said, was what he did outside of his professional career.
Hotchkiss took in four area children of a woman not related to him after she died from heart disease, and helped raise them as if they were his own.
"I wouldn't have finished school, that's for sure, if he hadn't helped us," said Katerine Botelho, who thinks of Hotchkiss as a beloved father figure.
Mateus Zschack, another of the young people Hotchkiss took in, added, "He will drop everything to go help somebody."
"He's just wonderful," added Cyla Botelho, another of the children.
Additionally, Hotchkiss also opened his home to a childhood friend with cerebral palsy and serves as his caregiver.
A neighbor named Mechelle, who asked necn to not publicize her last name, has been working to help organize Saturday's award celebration. She said when she was caught stealing a parking meter in Barre as a teenager in the 1980s, a serious talk from Officer Hotchkiss helped put her on a better path.
"Russ looked at me and said, 'I know you're better than this, you're going to be okay, and don't give up on yourself," Mechelle remembered, noting she had several other low-level crimes on her record such as driving violations. "At that point in my life, he was the only one who made me feel like I might be worth saving."
Sheriff Sam Hill of Washington County said his part-time deputy has always believed that while members of law enforcement protect and serve, they also assist others selflessly, even making personal sacrifices to do so.
"It couldn't go to a better guy," Hill said of the Grange's citizen of the year recognition. "He really takes it upon himself to try and make the world a better place."
Hotchkiss will be honored at an award ceremony and community dinner at the Heath recreation field on Route 110 in Chelsea starting at 5:00 Saturday evening.